Pierce, Davis score 29 apiece; Walker has 16 and 13

BOSTON (AP) -- Kobe Bryant's problems have moved back to the
basketball court.

Just 30 minutes after settling a lawsuit filed by the woman who
accused him of rape, Bryant scored 17 first-quarter points against
Boston. But he was scoreless in the fourth -- missing a 3-pointer
just before the buzzer -- as the Celtics beat Los Angeles 104-101 to
extend the Lakers' losing streak to four games.

Asked about the settlement following the game, Bryant said,
"Gentlemen, anybody with basketball questions, gentlemen?"
Pressed a few minutes later for comment, he repeated his no-comment
and Lakers spokeswoman Allison Bogli said, "Basketball questions

After a few more questions about the team's troubles, Bryant was
asked when he might be able to comment on his own. "I know you
came all the way down from New York," he told a TV reporter, "but
y'all came all this way for nothing."

Paul Pierce had 29 points and nine rebounds, Ricky Davis scored
29 points and Antoine Walker had 16 points and 13 rebounds in his
first game in Boston since being reacquired at the trading
deadline. The rejuvenated Celtics have won three straight since
then and six straight at home overall.

"This is the great thing about this team, that I love," Walker
said. "I don't necessarily have to score 25 points for us to

Chucky Atkins had 29 points, 14 in the final 5:26, to keep it
close as the defending Western Conference champions dropped to .500
with their seventh loss in their last eight road games. Bryant
finished with 26, making nine of 24 shots -- 0-for-6 in the fourth,
when he complained of a sore right ankle.

"If it was bothering him a lot, I am sure he would have asked
out," Lakers coach Frank Hamblen said. "But he is a tough guy. He
is not going to ask out in many situations."

The Celtics led 104-99 when Atkins hit a one-handed runner in
the lane with 19 seconds left. Davis was fouled, and he missed both
free throws with 17.7 seconds to play to give the Lakers a chance
to tie.

Bryant handled the ball at the top of the key, shouting
directions to his teammates, before he pulled up for a well-covered
3-pointer off to the left with about 4 seconds left. It hit the
back of the rim, Davis pulled down the rebound and went to the
floor to protect it until the buzzer sounded.

"When your ankle is stiff, it's tough to get the lift you
really want," Bryant said. "Back in the day when I was a kid
playing in the backyard, I never missed those."

The Lakers-Celtics rivalry used to be one of the NBA's most
intense, but it has tapered off with Los Angeles winning five
titles since Boston won its NBA-record 16th in 1986. The Lakers'
lone visit to Boston each season is always good for a sellout, but
on Wednesday night it was part of an emotional trifecta -- with
Walker's return and Bryant's settlement -- that added a buzz to the
building rarely seen for the Celtics these days.

"Tonight it was because Antoine returned and the people wanted
to see him," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "Now it's us to keep
them (cheering) because we keep winning."

The fans were already in the arena when the news of the
settlement broke, more concerned about Walker's return than
Bryant's troubles. Most probably didn't know about the settlement,
but they still found enough enmity to boo him in introductions and,
early on, every time he touched the ball.

"They obviously had a lot of momentum with Antoine coming back.
The energy in the building was a lot more than a typical regular
season game," Bryant said. "I always thought this would be a
place I hated coming because I hated the Celtics. ... But I love
coming here.

"The funny thing is, I'm an Eagles fan and a Yankees fan," he
said, referring to the teams the Patriots and Red Sox beat on the
way to their recent titles.

One fan under the basket yelled off-color comments about rape
and the legal case. But when Bryant hit the Lakers' first basket of
the game, a smattering of cheers could be heard from the Lakers
fans in the crowd.

Richie Vinton, a Celtics fan but also a Bryant fan from
Worcester, said he was glad to see the player's legal problems
behind him.

"What happened screwed up his image and made him have a big
chip on his shoulder, which affected his game," said Vinton, who
was wearing a Bryant jersey. "This guy was on the verge of going
to jail. So think how it would affect you."

Game notes
Pierce had a four-point play in the first quarter. The last
one by the Celtics was four years ago, also by Pierce, against
Phoenix. ... Boston's previous sellouts were for: opening night,
Cleveland's LeBron James, the defending champion Detroit Pistons
and for Walker's visit with the Atlanta Hawks. ... Walker is
1-for-8 from 3-point range since returning to the Celtics.