Regular Season Series (Game 2 of 2)

Series starts 2/26

Game 1: Sunday, February 26th
Game 2: Monday, March 20th

Lakers 105

(35-34, 17-21 away)

Celtics 97

(28-40, 19-15 home)

7:30 PM ET, March 20, 2006

TD Garden, Boston, MA

1 2 3 4 T
LAL 32 24 26 23105
BOS 26 14 34 2397

Top Performers

LAL: K. Bryant 43 Pts, 5 Reb, 4 Ast, 5 Stl

Bos: P. Pierce 26 Pts, 9 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Lakers pull ahead of Kings for seventh place in West

BOSTON (AP) -- After missing 3-pointers at the buzzer in consecutive games, Kobe Bryant settled matters early against the Boston Celtics.

Bryant had 43 points, five rebounds and five steals, and the Los Angeles Lakers salvaged the finale of a three-game trip with a 105-97 win over Boston on Monday night.

Bryant shot 18-for-39 and Lamar Odom added 17 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers, who never trailed and pulled a half-game ahead of Sacramento for seventh place in the Western Conference. The Lakers avoided falling below .500 for the first time since a loss to Utah on Jan. 3 dropped them to 15-16.

"This was a must win for us," Bryant said. "We played well the entire trip, but it's just that we weren't able to close things out. Tonight was a win that we desperately needed."

Paul Pierce scored 26 and Tony Allen added a season-high 18 points for the Celtics, who have lost four of five and have dropped four games behind Philadelphia in the race for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

The first two games of the Lakers' trip ended with Bryant missing contested 3-pointers. The Lakers lost to New Jersey 92-89 on Friday and to Cleveland 96-95 on Sunday despite leading by 18 against the Cavaliers.

This time, Bryant scored 16 fourth-quarter points -- including the Lakers' last 12 -- to make sure the game didn't come down to the closing seconds.

"When the game is on the line, they put the ball in my hands," Bryant said. "I've gotta do what I've gotta do, I don't care if it's 50 shots, 60 shots, five shots."

The Celtics trailed 56-40 at halftime but chipped away at the lead in the third quarter and pulled within 82-74 to start the fourth.

Pierce cut the deficit to 99-94, but Bryant responded with a driving layup with 1:20 remaining to give the Lakers a 101-94 edge. He then made two free throws with 49.6 seconds left to extend the lead.

"Kobe was the difference," Celtics forward Wally Szczerbiak said. "In the second half, we came back and we competed. But against a good team and a great player, we just didn't play well enough to win."

The Lakers double-teamed Pierce for much of the fourth quarter and held him to two points.

"We just threw everybody at [Pierce]," Odom said. "If you put two guys on him, you have a high percentage of stopping him."

Smush Parker scored 14 points and Kwame Brown had 11 points and nine rebounds for the Lakers.

After missing his first four shots, Bryant made six of his next eight attempts and scored 12 first-quarter points to help the Lakers jump to a 32-26 lead.

Szczerbiak cut the deficit to 42-35 with a 3-pointer midway through the quarter, but the Lakers went on a 14-2 run to make it 56-37 on a layup by Odom with 43.7 seconds remaining.

"When you're down by 19, it just puts too much pressure on your defense," Pierce said. "We needed to make consecutive shots and just couldn't sustain it."

Game notes

Pierce rolled his right ankle early in the first period but returned to the court 2 minutes later and promptly made a turnaround jump shot. ... The Celtics are the only team in the NBA to have an all-time winning record against the Lakers. ... Allen set career highs with four blocked shots, nine free-throw attempts and eight free throws made. ... The Lakers are 17-12 against Eastern Conference teams, 18-22 against Western Conference teams.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 105 97
FGM-FGA 43-90 (.478) 34-80 (.425)
3PM-3PA 7-19 (.368) 5-21 (.238)
FTM-FTA 12-16 (.750) 24-30 (.800)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 12-45 12-44
Assists 27 22
Turnovers 12 15
Steals 11 7
Blocks 1 9
Fast Break Points 9 19
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 25 (1/0) 18 (0/0)
Largest Lead 19 0

Top Performers

Los Angeles
Kobe Bryant Bryant
Points: 43
Reb: 5
Ast: 4
Stl: 5
Blk: 0
Paul Pierce Pierce
Points: 26
Reb: 9
Ast: 2
Stl: 1
Blk: 1