Celtics outshine Lakers in L.A., 109-96

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Celtics outshine Lakers in L.A., 109-96

By A.Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com

LOS ANGELES Paul Pierce has been at his best in the biggest games for the Boston Celtics.

Sunday was no different, as the Captain led the way in Boston's 109-96 win over arch-rival Los Angeles Lakers.

It was Boston's first time at the Staples Center since losing in Game Seven of the NBA Finals.

Regardless of that last meeting, there's always added significance to the game whenever these two longtime rivals face each other.

"These type of games, you love to be in," Pierce said. "It feels good when you come out with a win."

And Pierce's play had a lot with the Celtics pulling away in the second half.

He had a team-high 32 points, which included a 14-point outpouring of offensive juice in the third quarter that washed away whatever control of the game the Lakers enjoyed.

"I was able to just run the break, and Rondo just really kicked it ahead," Pierce said. "I was moving without the ball, really getting myself open. Just try to move without the ball, get out on the break, find the cuts, get to open spots, and Rondo and the other guys made the extra pass and I was the recipient of it."

As well as Pierce shot the ball, he wasn't the lone player putting up big numbers.

Kobe Bryant had it going offensively as well, leading all players with 41 points. He became the first player this season to score 40 or more points against the Celtics.

Even as Bryant continued to drain one shot after another, Celtics coach Doc Rivers didn't seem overly concerned.

Why?

Because even as Bryant was going off, the rest of the Lakers were, well, off.

Bryant's 41 points came on 16-for-29 shooting from the field. The rest of the Lakers shot a combined 20-for-52 from the floor.

"I didn't think anybody else wanted the ball," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "We did run a couple other plays to get guys into position, but I thought those times he had the best opportunities when other people were moving to the ball. But, a lot of times it didn't look like we were running anything out there offensively."

Boston continued to switch defenders on Bryant, but it didn't matter.

Bryant, who did not tally a single assist, was not going to be stopped.

"I told them, 'Don't overreact to Kobe. Kobe's Kobe,' " Rivers said. "We knew that before the game. He's not going to change. He's going to be great tonight, tomorrow and the next day. So don't overreact to that."

While there was a stretch in which Ray Allen (21 points) seemed to limit Bryant's effectiveness, Rivers was quick to caution to not read too much into that stretch of play.

"Right before Ray went out, Kobe was starting to get it going on him," Rivers said. "And we put Paul on him. Kobe is good. You can't keep one guy on him; just the look of a different guy helped."

Boston had a bunch of players who looked quite different than the guys who struggled the last time the C's were in this building.

In the Game Seven loss, the Celtics were horrific on the boards as the Lakers out-rebounded them by 13.

On Sunday it was the exact opposite, with the Celtics holding a 43-30 edge on the glass.

"Defensively and rebounding, were the key," Rivers said. "We held our own on the glass. And then our execution offensively, was . . . when you saw us play the last two games and you saw us play tonight, you don't think that's the same two teams."

Another change from the last time they played in the Staples Center, was the Celtics got some much-needed offensive firepower from the bench.

In the Game Seven loss, Boston's second unit only scored a total of six points, all by Glen Davis.

On Sunday, it was a different game, different story.

Davis, who was questionable leading up to the game because of a sore right hamstring, came off the bench and scored 13 points.

"It was a big game," Davis said. "It hurts a little bit, but if you can run, why won't you play?"

He wasn't the only Celtic giving the C's a lift off the bench.

Nate Robinson, who came into the game having missed 20 of his last 29 shots from the field in Boston's previous four games, had 11 points off the bench on 4-for-7 shooting from the field.

But against the Lakers, you can never be comfortable with a lead as long as Bryant is on the floor.

After a lay-up by Rajon Rondo gave Boston an 89-80 lead, the Lakers countered with a 7-2 run which included all seven points being scored by Bryant.

Rivers has seen Bryant when he gets on a roll like that, which is why he called a time out with 5:19 to play in hopes of cooling him off.

It worked.

Kevin Garnett nailed a jumper.

And after a defensive stop, Davis completed a 3-point play to give Boston a 96-87 lead with 4:29 to play.

The Celtics weren't done.

Another defensive stop allowed the Celtics to get out in transition.

That's when Rondo, who tallied 15 of his game-high 16 assists in the second half, connected with Kevin Garnett on a lob pass for a lay-up that gave the C's a comfortable 98-87 lead.

"We got the ball in Rondo's hands. He's the playmaker," said Garnett, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds for his 15th double-double this season.

And the Celtics continued to play their best against the best teams.

But in terms of what Sunday's win will mean to this rivalry, or even more significant, a potential meeting in the playoffs?

Not a whole lot.

"It's two good teams," Rivers said. "Both of us have to play better if we want to see each other again in the Finals. We're both winning games, but honestly, we both have to be better teams than we are."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached atsblakely@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

Highlights: Boston Celtics 109, Indiana Pacers 100

Highlights: Boston Celtics 109, Indiana Pacers 100

Catch the highlights of the Boston Celtics 109-100 win over the Indiana Pacers at home and hear from Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Al Horford.

Bradley 'not even tired' after playing 39 minutes vs. Pacers

Bradley 'not even tired' after playing 39 minutes vs. Pacers

BOSTON – As Avery Bradley made his way to the middle of the post-game media scrum inside the Boston Celtics locker room, he was informed that he had played 39 minutes in their 109-100 win over Indiana.

“I played 39?” Bradley said. “Man, I’m not even tired.”

And that may be the clearest sign to date that Bradley, a defensive pest who has been pestered by injuries this season, is as healthy as we’ve seen him in some time.

In addition to scoring 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting, he also grabbed eight rebounds, dished out a couple of assists, had a steal and was the head of the defensive snake that made life as hard as possible on Paul George who still managed to have a big night scoring the ball.

For Bradley to play so many minutes is a bit of a surprise when you consider how overcautious the Celtics were with his return from a right Achilles injury that kept him out for 18 straight games.

Bradley attributes the Celtics having some time off leading up Wednesday’s game.

“It was good for us and we were definitely prepared (on Wednesday),” Bradley said. “And it showed we’re improving every day as a team. We’re really locking in when we need to.”

And while he was one of three different primary defenders on George (Marcus Smart and Jae Crowder were the others), Bradley was the guy head coach Brad Stevens turned to most consistently down the stretch.

Bradley was the only Celtic to play all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter. The only other players that were on the floor for the entire fourth quarter, were Indiana's Monta Ellis and George.

You think Bradley was out there to shut down (2-for-10 from the field) Ellis?

Uh … nope!

“He (Bradley) was on Paul some,” Stevens said. “Not the whole time he was in. Marcus (Smart) guarded him a lot. Jae (Crowder) guarded him some as well. We just felt like we had to rotate bodies on them. I did not plan on playing Avery quite that many minutes.”

Stevens put Bradley back in the game to start the second and fourth quarters, something he normally does for Terry Rozier who did not play (coaches decision).

“And he maybe sat a minute at the end of the second,” Stevens said. “So that’s 24 minutes and usually it’s about twelve-to-fifteen.”

The additional playing time is something Bradley certainly isn’t going to ever complain about.

The same holds true for the Celtics having clinched a playoff spot prior to Wednesday’s tip-off.

“I don’t think anyone talked about it,” Bradley said. “We were just treating this like any other game, try to be prepared, go out there and execute the offensive game plan … I feel we did a great job of doing that.”

Indeed, the Celtics are playing with a flow and overall rhythm that’s making it extremely tough on their foes.

“If you look at their roster, everybody knows what to expect out of everybody,” said Paul George. “There’s never a moment where a guy is like, ‘What kind of shot are you taking?’ or ‘what are you doing?’ They are beyond that.”