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Bryant scores 41 in OT defeat at Boston

BOSTON (AP) -- Kobe Bryant heard the "Beat L.A.'' chants
bouncing around the FleetCenter and knew he was involved in
something special.

"I told Paul (Pierce) it was just like the old days,'' Bryant
said. "It felt like we were part of history. The old days of Larry
and Magic. But that leprechaun is still walking around the
rafters.''

Pierce scored 28 points, including a 3-pointer with 1:54 left in
overtime that gave the Celtics the lead for good Thursday night as
Boston beat the depleted Los Angeles Lakers 98-95.

Bryant had 41 points on an inconsistent night in which he shot
just 4-for-15 in the first half, scored 18 in the third quarter and
then missed 10 consecutive field-goal attempts down the stretch. He
was 17-for-47 from the field overall, and 0-for-8 from 3-point
range.

"I haven't seen anybody shoot 47 shots before, ever. There's a
limitation to what you can do,'' Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
"I was telling the team, 'He carried us back into the game. Now
stop going to the well. It can dry up.'''

Tony Delk scored 26 for Boston, making a pair of free throws
with 9.3 seconds left to make it 98-95. Bryant's 3-point attempt to
tie it with 1 second remaining bounced off the front of the rim.

Playing without Shaquille O'Neal and Rick Fox and coming off
their lowest-scoring game in four decades, the Lakers had just 35
points at halftime. But Bryant was hot in the third quarter,
scoring eight in a row as Los Angeles rallied from a 50-35 halftime
deficit to take the lead.

But that's when he started missing again, thanks in part to
Pierce's defense.

"You can't let him go out there and get an easy 41. He scored
41, but he had to take 47 shots,'' Pierce said. "He's their best
player. He has to carry most of the load because Shaq is not out
there.''

Relying on Bryant and the equally cold Robert Horry (2-for-9)
for all of their offense, the Lakers allowed Boston to erase an
84-77 deficit and take an 87-86 lead on Pierce's jumper with 1:55
left in the fourth. Devean George scored on a pass from Bryant,
then sank a free throw to give Los Angeles an 89-87 lead.

Walker then blocked Bryant's shot and made a basket from the
lane at the other end to tie it with 35 seconds left in regulation.
Bryant missed again, and Boston had two chances to win it in but
couldn't sink either.

O'Neal, who has missed eight weeks since having surgery on his
arthritic right big toe, is expected to return no sooner than
Tuesday. Fox sat out the last game of his six-game suspension for
fighting.

Los Angeles lost 81-70 on Tuesday night to the Cleveland
Cavaliers -- the Lakers' lowest point total since moving from
Minneapolis in 1960. They extended their scoring slump for a third
half before mounting a charge.

Shammond Williams hit a half-court shot to beat the 24-second
clock with 27 seconds left in the first half to make it 50-33 and
match Boston's biggest lead of the game. Bryant made two free
throws, then stole the ball from Pierce and heaved a half-court
shot that rimmed out at the buzzer.

But the 15-point lead quickly evaporated as the Lakers shot 73
percent in the third quarter, getting 36 points -- more than they
had in the first half.

Los Angeles scored eight straight to start the third. Bryant hit
a fadeaway basket to cut Boston's lead to 57-52; after Delk
answered with a basket Bryant scored six more points before Samaki
Walker put in a hook shot to cap an 8-0 run and give the Lakers a
62-61 lead.

Game notes
O'Neal was eligible to come off the injured list but did
not. He said before the game he had made "no progress.'' Celtics
coach Jim O'Brien said he would not miss O'Neal, but understood
that fans would be disappointed that the Lakers center wouldn't
play in Boston at all this year. "Of course they're missing out.
He's one of the great players of all-time,'' O'Brien said. "People
want to see players like that in person.'' ... ThunderStix, the
inflatable tubes prevalent at the World Series in Anaheim, made
their FleetCenter debut. ... The Celtics swept the season series
from Los Angeles last year. O'Neal did not play in Boston last
year, either.