Rapid Reaction: Lakers 97, Celtics 94

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Rajon Rondo drives on Metta World Peace during Sunday's game at the Staples Center.LOS ANGELES -- Rapid reaction after the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics 97-94 Sunday afternoon at the Staples Center:


The Lakers' Big Three of Kobe Bryant (24 points, 7 assists), Andrew Bynum (20 points, 14 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (13 points, 13 rebounds) were bigger than Boston's Big Three of Paul Pierce (13 points, 9 assists), Kevin Garnett (14 points, 11 rebounds) and Ray Allen (17 points, 6 assists), particularly when it mattered most down the stretch. Rajon Rondo chipped in 24 points and 10 assists for the Celtics, but it wasn't enough as Boston allowed the Lakers to shoot 50.7 percent from the floor.


The Celtics were up five with 2:41 to go when Bynum and Bryant took over. Bryant hit a pair of jumpers, while Bynum added an alley-oop and a little hook shot as the Lakers scored the final eight points of the game, all while Boston missed its final six shots.


Coming out of a timeout with a two-point lead and less than three minutes to play, the Celtics drew up a beauty that featured Garnett catching a lob near the basket and kicking the ball out to Allen, who had a free-throw line screen from Brandon Bass. Allen drilled the 3-pointer to push Boston's lead to 94-89 with 2:41 to go. It should have been enough, but the Celtics went ice cold from the floor. Ultimately, it was Bryant's pull-up jumper off a Gasol screen with 41.7 seconds to go that proved to be the boldest of the day as it was the winner.


The Celtics connected on a mere six of 24 shots in the first quarter (which ESPN Los Angeles colleague Dave McMenamin keenly pointed out was Bryant's stat line from Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals), and despite trailing by as much as 15 in the first half, the Celtics rallied to trim their deficit to a bucket before intermission. The Lakers were plagued by 12 first-half turnovers, which neutralized their shooting 51.4 percent. Boston shot just 39.5 percent before the break, but started fast in the second half to rally.


Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, rocking hipster glasses and his signature TB12 hat, sat courtside for Sunday's game (sitting opposite the Boston bench in the first half before moving near the Lakers bench after intermission). Maria Menounos wore a Pierce jersey in support of the Celtics (she's a Medford, Mass. native). Other familiar faces in the crowd (other than Jack Nicholson): David Beckham, Tobey Maguire and Seal.


The Celtics had a chance to start their season-long eight-game road trip on the right foot, but stumbled late. Not only were they battling the Lakers giants without two centers (Chris Wilcox and Jermaine O'Neal), but Boston was fighting a cross-country flight, daylight savings time and a matinee west coast start. Even after digging themselves a 15-point first-half hole, the Celtics were in prime position to win and couldn't generate the clinching hoop in the final two minutes. The Lakers sweep the season series, but Boston can't sit around worrying about it for long. They are back at the Staples Center again on Monday night for another national TV battle, against the Los Angeles Clippers.