Regular Season Series (Game 2 of 2)

Series starts 12/28

Game 1: Sunday, December 28th
Game 2: Wednesday, March 10th

Lakers 117

(42-22, 18-17 away)

Celtics 109

(29-37, 14-19 home)

7:00 PM ET, March 10, 2004

TD Garden, Boston, MA

1 2 3 4 T
LAL 32 36 21 28117
BOS 28 32 21 28109

Top Performers

LAL: S. O'Neal 28 Pts, 17 Reb, 4 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

Bos: R. Davis 24 Pts, 7 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 Blk

Lakers end Celtics' six-game win streak

BOSTON (AP) -- Kobe Bryant is back, Karl Malone is on his way and even Shaquille O'Neal managed to stick around for the whole game this time.

Bryant made a quicker-than-expected return from a shoulder injury, scoring 18 points with 10 assists Wednesday night to lead the Los Angeles Lakers to a 117-109 victory over the Celtics. O'Neal, who was ejected from the Lakers' previous game, had 28 points and 17 rebounds to help snap the Celtics' six-game winning streak.

Initially expected to be out a month, Bryant did not fly with the team to Boston because he wasn't planning to play. He arrived at the FleetCenter less than 90 minutes before gametime and said he felt strong enough to return after missing just two games.

"They trust my decision. I knew I was ready to play," said Bryant, who was not listed among the probable starters, but was announced as a late addition about five minutes before tip-off. "Once I knew I could move my shoulder and elevate it, I knew I'd be out there playing."

Bryant wore his jersey over a purple shirt that had the left sleeve completely cut off and the right sleeve cut off at the biceps, covering a brace.

"They did a good job protecting my shoulder," he said. "If I got hit from any angle I wasn't going to be affected."

Gary Payton added 20 points for the Lakers, overwhelming preseason favorites to win it all who are fighting for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They will get another boost Friday, when Malone is expected to return after missing half the season with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.

"(Bryant's) presence definitely helps lift morale," forward Rick Fox said. "Karl is supposed to be back Friday and that's as whole as we've been in a long time."

Paul Pierce scored 30 points and Ricky Davis had 24 for Boston. Chucky Atkins scored 19 and Mark Blount had nine points and 11 rebounds.

Los Angeles led by as many as 14 points in the third quarter. The Celtics got within six with about two minutes left, but couldn't stop O'Neal, who had 15 points and six rebounds in the fourth quarter alone one game after he was ejected with four minutes left for two quick technical fouls against Utah.

"We couldn't get the stops when we needed," Davis said. "It was tough in there to grab rebounds with Shaq."

Bryant reinjured his shoulder last Friday in the first minute against Seattle after missing six games earlier in the season due to a sprain of the same shoulder.

He shot just 4-for-16, but he made 10 of 14 free throws and did not seem to be favoring his arm.

"Kobe came out and gave it a chance," coach Phil Jackson said. "(It was) not a very good shooting night for him, but it was enough to help us win the ballgame."

Los Angeles led 111-100 lead before Pierce hit a 3-pointer and Atkins had a steal and fast-break layup to make it a six-point game with 1:57 left. O'Neal answered with a thunderous dunk.

Boston cut it to six again, and after Bryant missed two free throws, O'Neal shook the basket with another dunk with 20.9 seconds left to stop the rally.

Malone has been out since Dec. 21 and began practicing with the team this week. If he makes it back on Friday, Malone will have missed 39 games; he had missed only 10 games total in his first 18 years in the NBA, just six due to illness or injury.

"We are close," Malone said. "I just want to run up and down (in practice on Thursday). ... It's going to take me some games to get back into it."

Davis started the second half with a steal and breakaway, but when he tried a highlight-show dunk he lost control of the ball. With half of the court to himself, Davis tried to go between his legs and make a windmill dunk, but the ball flew up and over the rim.

Davis retrieved the ball, and before Bryant could get back on defense, Davis made a windmill dunk as his teammates burst into laughter.

Game notes

At the end of the first quarter, Davis was fouled by Brian Cook going for a last-second layup. The two bumped chests afterward and were given double technicals. ... Payton passed John Stockton for 29th on the scoring list. They are the only two players in NBA history with 19,000 points, 7,000 assists and 2,000 steals. ... O'Neal missed the Lakers' last two trips to Boston and hadn't played here since 2001. ... Los Angeles is 23-17 without Malone and 19-5 with him.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 117 109
FGM-FGA 39-84 (.464) 38-82 (.463)
3PM-3PA 7-21 (.333) 6-19 (.316)
FTM-FTA 32-48 (.667) 27-33 (.818)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 20-50 12-38
Assists 26 18
Turnovers 13 15
Steals 10 8
Blocks 1 3
Fast Break Points 3 3
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 27 (2/0) 30 (3/0)

Top Performers

Los Angeles
Shaquille O'Neal O'Neal
Points: 28
Reb: 17
Ast: 4
Stl: 2
Blk: 1
Ricky Davis Davis
Points: 24
Reb: 7
Ast: 1
Stl: 2
Blk: 1