|Boston's Paul Pierce, who had 33 points, gets off a shot despite the defense of the Lakers' Trevor Ariza. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)|
LOS ANGELES - The Lakers' Phil Jackson will pass late Celtics legend Red Auerbach on the all-time coaching wins list. But it didn't happen on the Celtics' watch.
The Celtics completed their four-game Western road trip undefeated with a 110-91 victory over the Lakers last night at Staples Center. Boston improved to an NBA-best 26-3, and has won eight straight road games and six straight overall. Jackson remained tied with Auerbach with 938 career wins, seventh in NBA history.
The Celtics won at Sacramento, Seattle, Utah, and the Lakers during the trip. Boston is now 12-2 away from TD Banknorth Garden and is 8-0 against the Western Conference.
Paul Pierce had 33 points to lead the way for Boston, which also got 22 points and 12 rebounds from Kevin Garnett. Ray Allen added 19 points.
"[Going 4-0] was our goal," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "We rarely talk about more than one game [at a time]. But before we left, I said, 'Guys, let's try and go 4-0.' I think every coach says that. But this is great."
The Lakers' Kobe Bryant scored 22 points but went just 6 of 25 from the floor and was 0 for 6 on 3-pointers. And the game was more than a bit chippy, as seven technical fouls were called.
Three came on a late play on which LA's Lamar Odom executed what seemed like a rolling body block on Ray Allen. Odom was called for a flagrant foul on the play, Allen drawing a technical.
Jackson, of course, coached Michael Jordan and the Bulls to an NBA-record 72-win season during the 1995-96 season. So, Phil, do the Celtics have 72-win potential?
"I don't want to guess that," Jackson said before the game. "That is so difficult. Their conference, Detroit's tough in their conference. They don't have a tremendously competitive conference to play in out there, but still and all, it's the NBA, and teams wear down, they have injuries.
"It's just too hard to say that at this point. This is one-third of the season. When we're in March, maybe we can talk about it."
The Celtics had a major injury to deal with, as starting point guard Rajon Rondo was out with a right hamstring injury. With Rondo out, the Celtics started Tony Allen for the third time this season.
Remember all those big-time battles between the Lakers and Celtics? Last night's game had that kind of feel.
Two hours before the game, Lakers and Celtics fans stood in long lines eager to get in. The celebrity list was long, as usual. On Throwback Night, the Lakers wore short shorts, while the cheerleaders wore the old Paula Abdul outfits. A video display during introductions showed highlights of the rivalry, too.
The Celtics pounced on the Lakers in the first quarter, limiting the home team to 38.1 percent field goal shooting (8 for 21) in taking a 32-23 lead. Bryant had 9 points on 2-of-8 shooting. No Boston starter scored fewer than 5 points in the quarter.
There also was some early testiness by both teams, as Boston's Garnett and Kendrick Perkins and Los Angeles's Bryant and Trevor Ariza were slapped with technicals.
A Tony Allen 3-pointer with 9:11 left in the second quarter gave the Celtics a 41-28 lead. A layin by Allen gave Boston a 17-point lead, 45-28, with 6:46 remaining in the second. However Ray Allen went to the bench with his third foul with 6:36 left in the second. With 5:35 left in the second, after a debatable call, Rivers was slapped with a technical by referee Bennett Salvatore with Boston in front, 45-31.
With the Celtics ahead, 45-36, there was more physical play when Garnett was cut above the right eye after he bumped Lakers center Andrew Bynum. An angry Garnett pointed out the cut to the referees and went to the locker room with blood streaming down his face.
The Celtics went scoreless for four minutes and one second before Eddie House's jumper with 2:44 left in the first half put Boston ahead, 47-38. Garnett returned to the game with Boston in front, 47-42, with 1:18 left in the second.
A Pierce 3-pointer off a Garnett pass gave Boston a 51-42 lead with 50.2 seconds left in the second. But the Lakers' Derek Fisher hit a 26-foot fadeaway 3-pointer at the buzzer to trim Boston's lead to 53-45. Los Angeles outscored Boston, 22-21, in the second despite shooting just 26.1 percent from the field.
The Lakers shot 31.8 percent from the field and missed 9 of 12 3-point attempts in the first half. Bryant had 16 points on 3-of-15 shooting and made 10 free throws. The Celtics shot 46.2 percent in the half. Pierce had 16 points and Tony Allen 13.
A strong Garnett one-handed putback dunk gave Boston a 64-52 lead with 8:06 left in the third quarter. Ray Allen picked up his fourth foul with 4:33 left in the third and went to the bench shortly after with 8 points. A Fisher 3-pointer brought the Lakers within 72-66 with 3:17 left in the third.
But Pierce scored 8 points and had three steals in the final 1:30 of the quarter, including a jumper at buzzer, to give Boston a comfortable 82-66 lead. The local kid from Inglewood scored 14 points in the third.
Ray Allen made up for lost time when he reentered the game by making two straight jumpers to give Boston a 86-66 lead with 10:49 left in the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer by Allen gave the Celtics an 89-68 advantage with 10:21 remaining.
Bynum fouled out with 9:36 left to play, and a House 3-pointer pushed Boston up, 93-68, with 9:25 remaining. Lakers fans began leaving in droves.
Rivers was thrilled his team won its fourth game in five nights.
"I think the atmosphere played in our favor," he said.
"The key for us early was getting off to a good start. We talked about that before the game. There is no way we could have played from behind tonight, playing a fourth game in five nights. Going out, getting that quick start and getting that lead was big for us."