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 Bryant, Gasol lead Lakers past Celtics 92-83

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PostSubject: Bryant, Gasol lead Lakers past Celtics 92-83   Fri Dec 26, 2008 5:46 pm

LOS ANGELES(AP) The six-month wait is over.
The Los Angeles Lakers can put the anguish of losing the NBA finals to
the Boston Celtics and the embarrassment over the way the series ended
behind them.Kobe Bryant had 27 points, nine rebounds and five
assists, Pau Gasol scored seven of his 20 points in the final three
minutes, and the Lakers used a strong finish to beat Boston 92-83
Thursday, snapping the Celtics' franchise-record 19-game winning streak.The
game was the first between the teams since the Celtics romped to a
131-92 victory in Game 6 of the finals last June to win their first
championship in 22 years and league-high 17th title. The Lakers blew a
24-point second-quarter lead in Game 4 at Staples Center to fall behind
3-1 - a deficit that's never been overcome in the finals.The teams have been archrivals since the 1960s, having met 11 times in the finals, with the Celtics going 9-2."We've
been waiting for that opportunity for a long time, and we won,'' said
Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic, who scored 10 points. "I don't like them at
all. A lot of people called us softies or whatever. It doesn't matter
at all. We know what we can do."Last year, they won the championship. This year, it's our year, we want to take it all the way.''The
victory was the 1,000th for Los Angeles' Phil Jackson, enabling him to
become the sixth NBA coach to reach that milestone. The 63-year-old
Jackson has a career record of 1,000-423 in 17-plus seasons as coach of
the Chicago Bulls and Lakers. He became the fastest to win 1,000 games,
surpassing Pat Riley, who did it in 1,434 games."It's amazing. I
mean, he's one of the greatest coaches of all time,'' Celtics coach Doc
Rivers said. "I can guarantee you that I won't win 1,000 games because
I won't be around that long. It's just an amazing number. When you
throw up 1,000 wins, that says a lot.''The Celtics entered with
a 27-2 record - the fastest start by a two-loss team. They were in
pretty good shape when Kevin Garnett dunked off a feed from Rajon Rondo
to put them ahead 81-79 with 3:57 remaining. But the Lakers went on a
13-2 run to finish the game."Give them all the credit,'' said
Boston's Paul Pierce, who had 20 points and 10 rebounds but was
scoreless in the fourth quarter. "We just have to play better down the
stretch.''Gasol missed his first four shots, and showed
frustration at times. But he made all three of his shots and all three
of his free throws in the fourth quarter for nine of his team's 21
points."We were pretty physical,'' said Gasol, who had three
rebounds, five assists and three blocked shots. "We were able to
contain them, keep our poise and finish the game off. I had to make
sure I took it to them, not settle for easy jumpers. I'm glad I was
able to get over that hump of a slow start."It shows we can beat anybody. Hopefully, we'll build on it.''Jackson
said the Lakers played excellent defense in the fourth quarter, when
they held the Celtics to 16 points. Boston shot 8-of-19 and was 0-for-7
on 3-pointers in the final period."I'm really happy with Pau,'' Jackson said. "He stepped up in that fourth quarter and we really needed him.''Lamar
Odom had 10 points and seven rebounds for the Lakers (24-5), who won
their 12th straight game at home, where they're 15-1. Andrew Bynum, who
missed most of last season and the playoffs with an injured knee, had
nine points and seven rebounds.Garnett shot 11-of-14 in leading
the Celtics (27-3) with 22 points and nine rebounds. Ray Allen scored
14, but went 2-of-11 after making his first three shots. Rondo was held
to six points, shooting 3-of-11, but had 12 assists."They played
great, give them credit,'' Rivers said. "For a team that has been
phenomenal down a stretch of games, I didn't think we were very good
tonight. We've been as composed as any team that I've seen in a long
time, and I thought quite honestly that we lost it a little bit at the
end.''A 15-foot jumper by Gasol with 2:48 left snapped an 81-all
tie and put the Lakers ahead for good. Allen's 3-pointer failed, and
Gasol scored from close range off an assist from Bryant with two
minutes left, putting Los Angeles up by four and sending the crowd of
18,997 into a frenzy.Garnett answered with a jumper to draw the
Celtics within two, but Gasol's three-point play with 1:28 left put the
Lakers on top 88-83. Gasol then blocked a 3-pointer by Allen, setting
up Trevor Ariza for a dunk that gave Los Angeles a seven-point lead
with 1:12 to go. Bryant's basket completed the scoring."It was
my first Christmas game, and I'm obviously blessed to be here,''
Garnett said. "There's a reason why teams are playing on this special
day, so it had a playoff energy and a playoff atmosphere to it,
absolutely. It's tough when you lose against anybody. We probably took
a step back, but hats off to a good Laker team. Pau made big shots when
he had to and Kobe put stress on the defense.''Boston's Eddie
House made his only basket with 8:09 remaining to tie it at 75. Neither
team led by more than two points after that until the Lakers took
command.Pierce scored five points and Allen added three during
an 8-0 run that put Boston ahead 64-62. Then, with Bryant on the bench,
Odom made two 3-pointers, and the Lakers outscored the Celtics 9-3 to
finish the third period and take a 71-67 lead.Vujacic scored
eight points and Bryant added six during a 16-5 run to begin the second
quarter, giving the Lakers a 39-29 lead - largest in the game for
either team - and they were on top 51-45 at halftime.Neither
team led by more than three in the first quarter, which ended with the
Celtics on top 24-23. Boston shot 61.1 percent to 47.6 percent for the
Lakers, but committed six of its 18 turnovers.Notes: Boston's
Glen Davis returned to action after missing two games because of a
concussion sustained in a traffic accident last Sunday, and had four
points and four rebounds in 13 minutes. ... The Lakers played without
backup point guard Jordan Farmar, who underwent knee surgery Wednesday
and will be sidelined approximately eight weeks. ... The game marked
the first time in NBA history that two teams met with so few losses
(seven) this late in the season. ... The game was the 10th straight for
the Lakers on Christmas. They have an overall record of 20-15 on
Christmas including 11-6 at home. ... It was the Celtics' first game on
Christmas since 2002. They have a 10-15 record, going 9-15 on the road
and 1-0 at a neutral site. They have never played at home on Christmas.
... The game was the first on Christmas between the teams since 1970,
when the Lakers won a 123-113 home decision.

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