The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers met on the hardwood of the Staples Center on Sunday for the second and final time during the regular NBA season and once again, the contest was a battle to the end with the outcome in doubt until the final buzzer sounded. In their first meeting back on February 9, in Boston, the Lakers walked off the court with 88-87 win. Sunday they would sweep the season series as key shots by Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum in the closing seconds of the game, allowed them to come from behind and squeak past their visitors by a final score of 97-94. Bryant scored a game high 26 points in the victory while Bynum racked up a double-double with 20 points for the afternoon.
All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo paced Boston, as he racked up yet another double-double including 24 points, however the Celtics floor general did not even come close to the basket when he jacked-up a 30 foot desperation shot to try to send the game into overtime with one second to play. Boston rebounded from a terrible performance during the first 12 minutes of action, to take control of the game down the stretch, however Los Angeles fought their way back to claim the victory.
Boston could not put the ball in the basket for nearly the first four minutes of the game, giving their host the opportunity to go on top 7-0. The Celtics never truly regained their composure during the period and when Bryant connected on a pair at the stripe with 52 seconds to play the Lakers held the advantage 24-14 at the end of the quarter.
Los Angeles appeared to be on their way to a very lopsided victory as with 7:35 left in the period Andrew Goudelock drained a 26 foot trey putting his team in charge with the score 37-22. Being the veteran unit that they are, the Celtics did not panic, but slowly and methodically started to dig their way back to daylight. They had reduced their deficit to just two points at the conclusion of the quarter as Rondo knocked down a trey with one second remaining. As the game reached the half Los Angeles held a slim 44-42 lead.
Rondo drove the lane three times in just over a minute and with 9:23 left in the period Boston held the upper hand with the score 50-47. The Lakers regained the momentum minutes later going on top by four points, only to see their opponents knot up the score once again. Matt Barnes drove the lane putting the ball up and in with 15 seconds remaining and Los Angeles ended the period still holding that slim advantage with the score 72-70.
The two teams kept exchanging the lead throughout most of the fourth quarter, until Ray Allen buried a three-point shot 25 feet from the basket with 2:41 on the clock which seemed to take all the air out of the Staples Center as the Celtics went on top 94-89. Just like their opponents, the Lakers have survived too many incidents with their backs against the wall to be concerned in this contest.
Those would be the last points scored by Boston for the afternoon, as their hosts shut them down and started their comeback. Bryant hit a mid range jumper with 2:15 on the clock to make it a 94-91 affair and then Bynum hit a shot two feet from the hoop with 1:16 left to play making it a 94-93 contest. Bryant once again sank a mid-range jumper with 41 seconds remaining putting Los Angeles on top at 95-94 and just for good measure, Bynum hit a six-foot hook shot with 15 seconds on the scoreboard, accounting for the final tally.
Bryant knocked down 26 points, 7 assists, 3 rebounds, a block and a steal while Bynum had 20 points, 14 boards and 2 assists. Metta World Peace scored 14 points, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block and 1 rebound while Pau Gasol recorded a double-double with 13 points, 13 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 block.
Rondo had 24 points, 10 assists, 2 rebounds and 1 steal for the afternoon. Ray Allen put up 17 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and a block while Brandon Bass scored 15 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 2 steals. Kevin Garnett notched a double-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals and 1 block while Paul Pierce added 13 points, 9 assists and 3 steals. Los Angeles improves to 25-16 and travel to Memphis to face the Grizzlies on Tuesday while Boston now stands at 21-19 and will be back in the same building on Monday night as they take on the Clippers.