Pierce scored 32 points, Kevin Garnett had 18 points and 13 rebounds with a large bandage over a five-stitch cut on his head, and the Celtics overcame Kobe Bryant’s 41 points in a 109-96 victory over Los Angeles.
Ray Allen scored 21 points for the Celtics in the longtime rivals’ first meeting since Los Angeles rallied from a late 13-point deficit for an 83-79 win in the deciding game last June, ending an exhausting series in dramatic fashion.
“It’s another game, but it was definitely an emotional game, especially because we lost Game 7 here,” said Pierce, who dueled down the second-half stretch with Bryant. “It feels good to come back in this building and get a win.”
The Celtics overwhelmed the Lakers in the rematch, with Rajon Rondo catalyzing the offense by racking up 15 of his 16 assists after halftime. Boston showed off its enviably complete game, outrebounding the Lakers 43-30 — a big problem for Boston in last season’s finale — while hitting nine 3-pointers and getting 34 assists to Los Angeles’ 10.
“We knew we could run on L.A.,” Rondo said. “L.A., given the personnel that we have, we thought we could outrun them.”
This victory also put the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics (36-11) well ahead of the Lakers (33-15) in the overall NBA standings.
You know, just in case.
“If we had home court last year, who knows maybe what happens in Game 7?” Pierce asked. “We’re not looking ahead, but maybe if it comes down to another Game 7, maybe we’ll have it at home.”
Bryant scored his 27,000th career point but couldn’t spark his Lakers teammates, who followed up their Christmas home loss to Miami with another flop against the best of the East, disappointing a home crowd pulsing with energy for the annual rivalry game.
“I think guys are upset, and they should be,” Bryant said. “We’re not playing very well against these top teams, so we need to elevate our level and need to get better if we’re to defend our throne. There’s no other option but that.”
Pau Gasol had 12 points in a quiet game for Los Angeles, which has lost four of seven. The two-time champions are doing nothing to counter the perception they don’t get excited about anything until the playoffs.