"I wish we would have come here last year with this kind of attitude," said Pau Gasol, who scored 24 points with 14 rebounds Thursday night to lead the Lakers to a 110-109 overtime victory over Boston.
"Nobody backed down," he added. "We were as physical as anybody."
In a rematch of an NBA finals in which the Celtics outmuscled the Lakers to the title, Lamar Odom made a pair of free throws with 16 seconds left in overtime and Los Angeles held on with physical defense against Paul Pierce and Allen that prevented either All-Star from getting off a clean shot.
The loss snapped the Celtics' 12-game winning streak and dropped them to 0-2 against the best in the West. Boston trails the Lakers by percentage points for the best overall record in the NBA, and would lose a tiebreaker for home court advantage in the finals -- if they both make it back.
"It would be great," Pierce said.
Kevin Garnett banged his fist on the table in agreement, and then interjected a reminder that seemed to be intended for the locker room across the hall: "We're the champs, man."
Kobe Bryant scored 26 points with 10 rebounds to help the Lakers take a five-game winning streak into Sunday's game against Cleveland. L.A. also snapped Boston's 19-game winning streak on Christmas Day and sent the Celtics into a 2-7 skid that is the worst stretch of the New Big Three era.
"These games are tough, and they're emotional games and then you play the next night," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, whose team plays the New York Knicks on Friday night. "We'll try to muster it up and see what we have."
Pierce scored 21, and Allen had 22, but they both missed off-balance shots in the final seconds. Allen was knocked to the court at the buzzer while Boston fans clamored for a foul call, but none came.
Rivers was unhappy about the non-call and about the refereeing in general.
"I thought it was a hand check; he pushed him the whole way," Rivers said, according to The Boston Globe. "The officials say they don't call the game different from the first quarter to the end of the game, and if that's true, Ray should have been on the free throw line."
Rajon Rondo scored 16 with 12 assists.
It was the Lakers' first visit to Boston since a 131-92 embarrassment in Game 6 of the NBA finals that clinched the Celtics' unprecedented 17th league championship. L.A. got a small measure of revenge on Christmas, but even then Boston played a more physical game.
"Coming down the streets, staying at the same hotel, I was up last night thinking about the game -- wondering how my teammates would respond. It all came back," Bryant said. "Enough is enough. We were able to match their physical play."
There were two double-technicals -- one of them after Bryant and Rondo were pushing and finger-pointing in the third -- and enough shoving to pass for a playoff game, but both teams were tired when it ended. Garnett, who missed the previous two games with the flu, scored 16 before fouling out with 4:22 left in the fourth quarter.
Rivers said he felt the officials let the game get out of control in the second half. "And I thought the officials allowed it to get out of control," he said, according to the Boston Herald. "I just thought there was a lot of chippiness. It was funny. Thirty seconds into the second half, I yelled out on the floor and said, 'Guys, there's elbows. Clean it up.' I thought we're the retaliators tonight a lot and we got the call obviously."
Bryant, who scored 61 and 36 in his previous two games, hit three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the last with 1:30 left in regulation and Pierce in his face to make it 101-100 -- the Lakers' first lead of the half. But after Pierce made one of two free throws with 30 seconds left, Bryant tried to shoot over Pierce again and banged it off the rim.
After a timeout with 7.7 seconds left, Pierce dribbled the clock down before Bryant poked the ball away. Eddie House got it and put up a sideways, one-handed 3-point attempt at the buzzer that wasn't close.
Bryant missed his last five shots of the game.
Gasol made one of two free throws to give the Lakers a 108-107 lead with 1:11 left, then Glen "Big Baby" Davis made a jumper -- his only basket of the game after six misses. Kobe missed over Pierce, then Davis missed again and fouled Odom, who sank them both.
The Celtics got the ball to Pierce, but his shot was off. Rondo got the rebound and drew a foul, but it wasn't a shooting foul. The inbounds pass made it to Allen, but he was out of position and never got a good look.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers said center Brian Scalabrine (concussions) is out until at least the All-Star break. If Scalabrine has a recurrence of his symptoms, he could be out much longer. ... The Celtics assigned rookie guard J.R. Giddens to the Utah Flash of the developmental league. ... New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick sat courtside. Running back Kevin Faulk sat two rows behind him.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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