Final

Regular Season Series (Game 2 of 2)

Series starts 2/22

Game 1: Tuesday, February 22nd
Celtics95Final
Lakers104
Game 2: Wednesday, March 2nd
Lakers101Final
Celtics104

Lakers 101

(28-28, 9-17 away)

Celtics 104

(30-28, 20-9 home)

7:30 PM ET, March 2, 2005

TD Garden, Boston, MA

1 2 3 4 T
LAL 30 49 22 101
BOS 27 50 27 104

Top Performers

LAL: C. Atkins 29 Pts, 3 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

Bos: P. Pierce 29 Pts, 9 Reb, 7 Ast, 1 Blk

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 only."

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 win."

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.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Team Stat Comparison

 
LAL
BOS
Points 101 104
FGM-FGA 37-87 (.425) 39-93 (.419)
3PM-3PA 8-23 (.348) 5-12 (.417)
FTM-FTA 19-23 (.826) 21-29 (.724)
Rebounds (Offensive-Total) 9-44 13-46
Assists 16 26
Turnovers 11 5
Steals 2 6
Blocks 8 7
Fast Break Points 7 6
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 26 (0/0) 18 (0/0)
Largest Lead 8 7

Top Performers

Los Angeles
Boston
Chucky Atkins Atkins
Points: 29
Reb: 3
Ast: 3
Stl: 1
Blk: 0
Paul Pierce Pierce
Points: 29
Reb: 9
Ast: 7
Stl: 0
Blk: 1