BOSTON Paul Pierce seemed to have a little more pep in his step Thursday night which isn't all that surprising when you consider it was the Boston Celtics facing the Los Angeles Lakers.
Pierce, the longest-tenured Celtic, embraces this heated rivalry more than any of his teammates.
And his play backs that up, as Pierce scored a team-high 24 points in Boston's 116-95 blowout win.
"I like these type of games," Pierce said. "You know, a game that has a playoff feel to it, you can feel the energy every time the Lakers come into the building."
But C's coach Doc Rivers believes there's even more to Pierce's knack for getting amped up in games against the Lakers.
"Well, he's from L.A.," Rivers said. "So he has the double whammy; he's with the Celtics playing the Lakers, and he's from LA. And he lives in LA in the off-season. So its' probably really important for him to play well and win, so he can walk the streets and talk, as Paul probably does."
While there's likely some -- OK, a lot -- of truth to that, there's no mistaking the respect Pierce has for the rivalry that exists between two of the more storied franchises in the NBA.
"It's never going to change," he said. "You walk down these hallways and when you come in here you see the whole rivalry, pictures, you see throughout the decades how it goes, regular season, playoffs, championships. It mean it's always going to have that extra little edge to this game."
And the C's certainly played with an edge on Thursday with an emphatic victory that snapped a three-game losing skid to the Lakers.
Here are some key factors outlined prior to tip-off, and how those keys played out during the game.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston will try to make Kobe Bryant do what Kobe does best and that's score. When he's being a facilitator as well, the Lakers become an extremely difficult team to beat.
WHAT WE SAW: Bryant was in his element on Thursday, scoring a game-high 27 points on an efficient 9-for-15 shooting performance. However, most significant was the fact that he did not have a single assist -- the first time that has happened since a Jan. 1 home loss to Philadelphia.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Brandon Bass vs. Earl Clark: Bass has become a more reliable rebounder as well as facilitator ... yes. "No Pass" Bass does in fact pass the rock every now and then. As for Clark, he'll have his hands full trying to do his job in addition to that of Pau Gasol who is out for at least a month with a foot injury.
WHAT WE SAW: This was a virtual wash statistically, although the edge in terms of impact had to go to Bass. He had eight points on 4-for-5 shooting along with four rebounds in 25 minutes of action.
PLAYER TO WATCH: Jason Terry was one of the few Celtics players that didn't put up impressive numbers at Toronto on Wednesday. The C's will need a lift from someone not named Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce. This would be a good night for the Jet to take off and have a big game.
WHAT WE SAW: Terry had a solid game off the bench for Boston with 15 points on 5-for-6 shooting. The Celtics' second unit combined to score 46 points compared to just 40 for the Lakers.
STAT TO TRACK: The 3-point shot has been a part of both Boston's and the Los Angeles Lakers' success of late, but in a different way. In the last five games, Boston has limited opponents to 5.2 3s made per game, the fifth-best mark in the league during that span. The Lakers have connected on 8.2 3s in the last five games, which is the fifth-highest mark in the league during that span of time.
WHAT WE SAW: The Celtics didn't give the Lakers too many good looks from the perimeter, limiting them to just 5-for-23 shooting on 3s.