By A.Sherrod Blakely
LOS ANGELES When you're two-time NBA champions, you grow accustomed to taking the best shot from opponents every night.
But this season, it seems the best shot from opponents -- specifically the upper echelon, title-contending bunch -- has leveled the Los Angeles Lakers.
Boston's 109-96 win over the Lakers Sunday was yet another instance in which Los Angeles came up short against one of the NBA's better teams.
The Celtics and the San Antonio Spurs have the best records in the Eastern and Western Conference, respectively.
Los Angeles lost to both of them.
Dig a little deeper and you'll find that Los Angeles has suffered defeats to other top-notch teams, such as Dallas, and split two games with Chicago.
Aside from beating the Bulls, the Lakers' only other marquee victory was a 101-94 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 17.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson isn't overly concerned about his team's struggles against the top teams in the NBA.
"It's not the playoffs yet," Jackson said. "We're still playing regular-season games. You know, we'll get there in time."
Los Angeles center Andrew Bynum isn't discarding these losses to top teams quite as easily as Jackson.
"It's going to give them momentum for later on in the postseason," he said. "But it's not something that we can't correct."
Good or bad teams, it doesn't matter.
"When you don't execute, you leave yourself open," said Lakers forward Lamar Odom. "You leave your chin open, especially against a team like this Celtics that executes and plays tough and plays hard on both ends of the court. We got beat."
Kevin Garnett is one who never needs added incentive to play well.
But after the inadvertent elbow he took to the head -- and the five stitches that he needed after the game -- Garnett acknowledged he became even more locked in to what he needed to do in order for the C's to be successful.
"If anything, it woke me up," he said. "I wanted to be a lot more aggressive to the basket and just be aggressive with whatever I was doing."
On the play, there was no call made.
To Garnett, that signaled that the officials were going to allow players for both teams to be aggressive.
"I took like they were going to let us play, and they did," said Garnett, who had 18 points and 13 rebounds for his 15th double-double this season.
If there was a good thing about Kendrick Perkins missing the first 43 games of the season recovering from surgery to repair a torn MCL and PCL injury suffered in Game Six of last season's NBA Finals, it's that the likelihood of him racking up enough technical fouls to miss games is slim.
Unfortunately for the Celtics, that doesn't mean he won't make it interesting.
Perkins has picked up a technical foul in each of his last two games.
While it's not necessarily at the level of trending, Rivers hopes the 40-plus game cushion will be enough to where it won't become an issue.
"He has a cushion," Rivers said. "The 40 games he's missed. We're safe with him this year."