LOS ANGELES – It does not exorcise all the demons the Lakers had left from that 39-point loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 6 of the NBA Finals last spring.
But a resounding victory on Christmas Day, in front of a nationally-televised audience and a raucous sellout crowd at Staples Center, was soothing none the same.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant scored a game-high 27 points but it was two assists that he made in the fourth quarter that ultimately tipped the scale in the Lakers’ favor.
With the Celtics running extra defenders and it seemed even a leprechaun at Bryant in the dramatic final minutes of the fourth quarter, the Lakers’ guard drew them to him and scanned the floor for an open teammate.
“They were determined not to let me beat them with the ball,” Bryant said
The teammate coming open turned out to be forward Pau Gasol, who scored seven consecutive points to spark a 13-2 closing run by the Lakers. Gasol finished with 20 points, 14 of which he scored in the second half.
“To do that against the Boston Celtics is big because they’re usually the ones closing out teams in the fourth quarter,” Lakers forward Luke Walton said.
The second of Gasol’s three baskets gave the Lakers an 85-81 lead, with two minutes left. After Kevin Garnett scored for the Celtics, Gasol answered back with a finger roll and a free throw, after he was fouled on the play.
Trevor Ariza put the game in solid control for the Lakers, when Gasol blocked a shot that Ariza retrieved and sped down the court for a reverse slam. It gave the Lakers a 90-83 lead, with 1:12 remaining.
The victory by the Lakers snapped the Celtics’ 19-game winnng streak.
“It was a big win for us,” Ariza said. “We needed this one.