- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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BOSTON -- A couple of Lakers players' nicknames seriously need to be called into question after this one.
So much for the "Magic Mamba" moniker the pass-happy Kobe Bryant has picked up in recent weeks.
Bryant, who had amassed 75 assists in his last seven games to pick up the nickname, finished with zero assists to go with his 27 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes on Thursday.
And so long to the "Superman" pseudonym by which Dwight Howard has been known for so long.
Howard, who played for the first time in four games after aggravating the torn labrum in his right shoulder at the start of the Lakers' seven-game trip, had just nine points and nine rebounds while shooting 1-for-6 from the free throw line in 28 minutes before fouling out Thursday night. Those numbers were nearly equaled by Boston backup big Chris Wilcox (eight points, nine rebounds), and nobody is calling him Superman. In fact, when I tweeted that Wilcox was playing in the game, several people hit me up on Twitter surprised that he was even still in the league.
The loss can't be put on just Kobe Bryant and Howard, of course. The Lakers' defense gave up a ridiculous 116 points to a Celtics team that had just played the night before on the road in Toronto. The Lakers missed 12 free throws as a team. Other than Bryant and Howard, the Lakers shot just 23-for-64 (35.9 percent) from the floor.
How it happened: Howard's return didn't give the team the type of boost right from the start that it was hoping for in Pau Gasol's absence. The Lakers trailed by four at the end of the first quarter and 14 at the half, as both their offense (just 37.8 percent shooting as a team overall, not to mention going 2-for-12 from 3 and 8-for-18 from the free throw line) and their defense (allowing Boston to shoot 51.1 percent as a team) struggled mightily in the first half. It didn't get any better after halftime.
The Celtics used a flurry of fast-break points and 3-pointers to break the game wide open and take a 26-point lead into the fourth. Boston shot 16-for-21 (76.2 percent) in the third quarter and scored 37 points in the period to run away with it.
What it means: All the good feeling from the Lakers' winning six out of seven games is gone, and reality is creeping in for a 23-27 Lakers team that will be without Gasol for a minimum of six to eight weeks, according to the team. The hard work is still ahead of the Lakers if they're going to pull off this improbable playoff push.
Hits: Bryant shot 9-for-15 from the field. After that? Umm
Misses: The Celtics outscored the Lakers 58-36 in the paint.
The Celtics outscored the Lakers 22-4 in fast-break points.
The Lakers' biggest lead was one point. The Celtics' biggest lead was 32.
Devin Ebanks ended his string of 13 straight DNP-CDs only to go 2-for-6 from the field in five minutes in the fourth.
Stat of the night: Kevin Garnett (15 points) became just the 16th player in NBA history to score 25,000 career points, passing the milestone in the first half.
What's next: The Lakers will escape the major snowstorm set to blanket Boston with up to 2 feet of snow Friday afternoon by flying to Charlotte late Thursday night. (We'll see whether we beat writers are as lucky with getting out of Beantown on Friday morning.) The Lakers play the Bobcats in Charlotte on the second night of a back-to-back Friday, and while they've done OK this season on the second night of back-to-backs on the road (3-2), they are just 2-5 all time on the road against the Bobcats. Then, they finish up their road trip Sunday in Miami.
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