Lakers ruin Allen’s party as Celtics fall
It was Ray Allen’s night, but the Lakers were fine with spoiling it. Allen needed two 3-pointers to move past Reggie Miller and become the NBA’s all-time leader. He got them quickly, drilling two in the first quarter.
There was an instant celebration. The crowd’s cheers drowned out Andrew Bynum’s ensuing free throws, towels whirling. Allen walked to midcourt, where TNT’s team was sitting, and embraced Miller. He drifted back to the floor, the game temporarily seemed secondary. Kobe Bryant offered a fist bump and an affirming nod.
The Celtics would go up by as many as 15 before the Lakers decided to crash the party, going on 14-4 run in the second quarter to get back into the game, getting 12 points from Bryant in the third quarter to take control, then hanging on in the fourth quarter for a 92-86 win, earning a split of the season series after falling at Staples Center just 11 days prior.
Having made it his personal duty to ruin the night, Bryant still offered a congratulations to Allen after going for 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting.
“For the fans, I’m sure it’s sweet,’’ said Bryant, who came in to the league the same year as Allen. “But for me, I’m truly happy for Ray. That’s just unbelievable.’’
Bryant applied all the fourth-quarter brush strokes.
He hit a turnaround 19-footer with 4:49 left to put the Lakers up 5. He knocked down a catch-and-shoot from 20 feet with 3:47 left that extended the lead to 7. He sliced to the hoop for a layup that put the Lakers up 9. None of the shots got him fist bumps from Allen, who scored a team-high 20 points, but just 2 in the fourth quarter.
When the Celtics made a final push, closing Los Angeles’s lead to 88-83, Bryant drove baseline and made a dish to Pau Gasol for a layup and more than comfortable lead.
But to Celtics coach Doc Rivers, Bryant was far more disruptive defensively, doubling on Rajon Rondo, who missed 9 of 14 shots.
“Kobe didn’t win the game with his offense, Kobe won the game with his defense,’’ Rivers said. “I thought defensively, he was absolutely phenomenal. He was trapping, he was helping off of Rondo. He trapped the post, he blocked shots, he just had a great floor game more than just his scoring.’’
The breaking point came at the start of the second half when the Lakers scored the first 10 points.
“They came real aggressive in that third quarter,’’ said Paul Pierce, who scored 15 points but missed 9 of 15 shots. “We just didn’t come out aggressive. That third quarter really hurt us. We let a team like the Lakers get hot and we know what they’re capable of. We just didn’t play with the same urgency in the second half as we did in the first.’’
It was the third straight win for the Lakers and their third straight regular-season win at the Garden, where a sellout crowd of 18,624 came to watch Allen make history. The Celtics dropped their third game this month, missing 30 of 43 second-half shots. Being thin in the frontcourt, they lost the most important battle, getting outrebounded, 47-36.
Kevin Garnett grabbed 11 boards, but missed nine shots, going 1 of 8 from the floor in the fourth quarter. The Celtics were already in a tight spot with five players injured. Nate Robinson went down in the second quarter with a bruised right knee, and Allen picked up three fouls in the third quarter, allowing Bryant to go to work.
“It helps, obviously, when he’s not in there or Garnett is not in there,’’ Bryant said. “As many guys as you can get into foul trouble, it helps.’’
Rondo played 44 minutes, Pierce played 40, and the Celtics paid the price trying to win with limited manpower.
“It definitely hurts when you don’t have a number of guys to come off the bench to spell you,’’ Pierce said. “Certain guys played extending minutes, but that’s no excuse. We went up  points, we had a chance to go up even more. We let them get back in the game and in the third quarter they turned it up. We didn’t adjust at all.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.