LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The storied rivalry between the Los Angeles
Lakers and Boston Celtics has lost nearly all of it luster.
The names have changed, even the shot selections. No more
skyhooks by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. No more set shots by Bob Cousy.
Time marches on, and it's back to square one for two teams that
have combined for 30 NBA championships, 44 conference titles and 51
division championships since beginning their rivalry in 1948-49.
The Lakers won this one 104-95 Tuesday night, with Kobe Bryant
and Lamar Odom each scoring 21 points and Chris Mihm adding 19
points and 15 rebounds to offset 25 points each by Paul Pierce and
reserve guard Ricky Davis.
The Lakers and Celtics have met in the finals 10 times, once
when the Lakers were in Minneapolis. The only season in the history
of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry that neither team qualified for the
playoffs was 1993-94.
But so far this season, the Celtics' longest winning streak is
three games and the Lakers' longest is two -- on 10 occasions.
In the 1980s, the Celtics and Lakers met three times in the
finals and there wasn't a tougher regular-season ticket in sports.
"That was a great rivalry that lasted a whole decade. It still
has a little mystique to it, but it's not the same," Pierce said.
"You respect those guys and what they did during their time for
the league and the Boston Celtics. But this is a whole new era."
This was the first meeting between the teams since the Lakers
traded Gary Payton to the Celtics on Aug. 6 for Mihm, Chucky Atkins
and Jumaine Jones. Rick Fox also went to Boston in the deal, but
retired a month before the season opener.
Jones scored 14 points for the Lakers, and Luke Walton -- making
his first start of the season with Caron Butler was at home with a
stomach virus -- had nine points in 36 minutes and tied a career
best with seven assists. Los Angeles grabbed 21 offensive rebounds,
translating into 22 second-chance points.
"You can't beat a team when they get that many offensive
rebounds," Payton said. "We had control of the game for three
quarters, and then all of a sudden they make a run and we panic. We
shot long jump shots and turned the ball over, and then they got to
The anticipated shootout between Bryant and Pierce, the leading
scorers for both teams, never materialized because both players
were plagued by foul trouble.
Celtics No. 1 draft pick Tony Allen spent only 2:20 on the court
before getting his third foul with 6:45 left in the half -- and his
fourth came just 2:17 into the third, and he fouled out for the
first time as a pro with 2:39 left.
"Foul trouble hurts. That's why it's a team game," coach Doc
Rivers said. "When one of your key players gets in foul trouble --
and we had a couple of them tonight -- you still have to search and
find a way to win. And we just didn't do that."
But the Lakers responded with a dunk by Mihm off a nice feed
inside by Bryant, whose two free throws and reverse layup gave them
their first double-digit lead and helped trigger a 9-2 spurt that
sealed the victory.
"We got into the passing lanes and were able to get some
deflections, run a little bit and make the game easier," Odom
said. "We started off a little sloppy and turned it over, but we
played much better in the second half offensively and
Boston led by as many as nine after Davis drained a 3-pointer
with 6:17 left in the third quarter. But the Lakers closed to 74-72
on Walton's 3-pointer from the left corner with 24.8 seconds left
in the quarter, then opened the fourth with a 13-4 run to pull
ahead 85-78 with 7:28 to play. Odom helped fuel the rally with six
points, while Boston went 4:16 without a field goal.
"We felt like we shot ourselves in the foot," Pierce said.
"We had it in our hands and it slipped away. Mental errors by
myself took our team out of the game, and it snowballed."
Now that anyone with $11,000 can have the Celtics' arena
named after them for one game, the offer has caused quite a stir
around Boston. "It would be funny to play at `Paul Pierce Arena'
one night. I think that would be absolutely hilarious," coach Doc
Rivers said. FleetBoston Financial gave up the `FleetCenter'
monicker after the company was acquired by Bank of America. ... If
the Lakers win the rematch at Boston on March 2, it would give them
their first five-game winning streak ever against the Celtics. ...
The Celtics are 0-4 against the Lakers on this date, including
1961, 1963 and 1970. All four games were on the road.