It's no secret the Celtics have a "bigs" problem. But Doc Rivers is quick to remind people that there are only one or two teams in the league with centers capable of causing matchup issues.
The Celtics faced one of those centers tonight, and Lakers big man Andrew Bynum did his part with 16 points and 17 rebounds as the Lakers outlasted the Celtics in overtime, 88-87, at TD Garden.
In addition to Bynum, the Celtics got all they could handle from the oft-maligned Pau Gasol, who created a two-headed monster in the middle for Los Angeles. Gasol had a double-double of his own with 25 points and 14 rebounds, which did more than help Kobe Bryant, who led all scorers with 27 points.
The Celtics were able to withstand the Los Angeles middle men with inspired play of their own for most of the game. Shots weren't always falling for the home team, but the Celtics had 22 assists to nine turnovers. If they had gone to the basket more they may have won the game despite their struggles on the defensive boards.
Those struggles were significant. Bynum and Gasol combined for 11 offensive rebounds, which was pretty much the ball game.
There was a lot of ball game played, and for most of it the Celtics were leading. Boston trailed only once in the first half. Ray Allen led the Celtics with 12 points at the break, while the Celtics held Los Angeles to 41-percent shooting. At halftime it felt like Rondo had played a much better game than than 6 points, 4 assists, and 2 turnovers. The Celtics and Lakers shot a combined 3 of 14 from 3-point range before the break.
Coming off an emotional game Tuesday night in which he passed Larry Bird for second place all-time in Celtics scoring, Pierce hit just one of his first five shots to start the game but still chipped in seven rebounds and three assists by halftime.
The Lakers began to establish that big presence in the third quarter. Gasol had 9 points and 5 rebounds in the third as Los Angeles out-rebounded the Celtics by five. Bryant's 12 points in the third helped the Lakers take a 67-64 lead heading into the fourth.
The Celtics went ahead by two on a 3-pointer by Allen with 1:08 remaining, but they gave the Lakers too many chances on their next possession, and Gasol finished it off with a putback that tied the game with 9.8 seconds left. The Celtics had a chance to win in regulation but botched their chance when Pierce picked up his dribble and found Mickael Pietrus for a desperation three that fell off the mark.
Overtime started and ended badly for the Celtics, who found themselves down 86-82 halfway through the extra period because they hadn't scored yet. The Celtics did eventually score, and they had a chance to win the game on their final possession when Pierce missed his favorite shot -- a step-back jumper -- albeit too far away from the hoop.
Pierce finished 7 of 18 in the game, while Kevin Garnett was 6 of 23. Allen led the Celtics with 22 points.
Tonight began a representative stretch of this condensed NBA season, with the Celtics traveling to Toronto to face the Raptors tomorrow night before returning home Sunday to host the first-place Bulls. The Celtics face Chicago again next Thursday.
Final: Lakers 88, Celtics 87 (OT): Pierce gets a contested look and misses a step-back jumper from a little further away than he usually likes that shot.
6.1 seconds OT, Lakers 88-87: Still no score since we last talked. Kevin Garnett took a 3-pointer from the corner -- shot they wanted? -- and Bryant missed on the other end. Celtics timeout with another shot to win.
1:01 OT, Lakers 88-87: Paul Pierce with a monstrous 3-pointer, but Bynum gets another putback to put the Lakers ahead.
2:52 OT, Lakers 86-82: Bryant gets the Lakers on the board, and Steve Blake hits a jumper to force a Celtics timeout. The Celtics need to score here at some point.
END regulation, Tied at 82: Awful possession by the Celtics. Pierce loses his dribble and gets stuck, finds Pietrus, who forces an off-balance three from 35 feet. Overtime.
9.8 seconds 4th quarter, Tied at 82: Allen hits a huge 3-pointer, but the Lakers get too many chances on the other end and Gasol puts it in. Final shot of regulation coming.
1:16 4th quarter, Lakers 80-79: Bynum with a beastly put-back, and the teams trade a few scoreless possessions. Pierce?
3:41 4th quarter, Tied at 77: Pietrus hits another 3-pointer, his third of the game. Ray Allen, the Celtics' leading scorer with 19, is back in the game.
6:27 4th quarter, Lakers 71-70: Matt Barnes is a pest. He snuck in amongst the big boys for an offensive rebound and drew the foul. He's got 10 points and 4 rebounds.
8:16 4th quarter, Lakers 71-70: E'Twaun Moore has played eight minutes here with Avery Bradley scratched for medical reasons. He's been fairly invisible, which I guess could be considered a good thing. He's got as many points -- zero -- as Derek Fisher.
End 3d quarter, Lakers 67-64: It'll be disappointing if the Celtics lose this game considering the energy they've played with. They're clearly up for this one, but they're having a heck of a time with Andrew Bynum (10 points, 12 rebounds) and Pau Gasol (21 points, 8 rebounds).
2:40 3d quarter, Celtics 64-61: Pau Gasol has a sneaky 20 points. For all the talk of Gasol being soft, he's an unbelievably talented offensive player. He deserved Finals MVP in 2010 over Kobe Bryant for the way he played.
7:17 3d quarter, Celtics 57-53: Bryant is doing his best to take over this game, but the Celtics are playing inspired basketball. Rajon Rondo's drive to the hoop stops some Lakers momentum and puts the Celtics up four.
Halftime, Celtics 47-45: What a momentum-killer by Jermaine O'Neal at the end of the half, fouling Bynum on a crazy lay-up that goes in as time expires. The Celtics had built momentum of their own on dunks by Garnett and Allen, but they haven't been able to gain any kind of separation.
2:17 2d quarter, Celtics 41-38: Kobe Bryant is coming alive. He's got 11 points to lead all scorers. He's celebrating after every made basket. It's clear he loves playing in this building.
5:42 2d quarter, Celtics 35-32: Great pass from Garnett to a cutting Ray Allen for a 3-point play. Passing out of the post is one of the strongest parts of Garnett's game.
8:39 2d quarter, Celtics 30-28: The Celtics are struggling to get good shots on offense. Pierce, Garnett, and Allen are a combined 4 for 16.
10:46 2d quarter, Celtics 28-24: Marquis Daniels plays one minute, picks up a foul, Ray Allen checks back in.
END 1st quarter, Celtics 26-22: Lots of positive signs there for the Celtics, but they didn't finish the quarter well after having a nine-point lead. Mickael Pietrus has the hot hand off the bench with two 3-pointers.
3:49 1st quarter, Celtics 15-10: Brandon Bass is instant offense. That's something the Lakers have lacked on the road this season, and it's something the Celtics bench lacked last season. Bass has 4 points and 1 rebound.
5:48 1st quarter, Celtics 11-10: Teams are feeling each other out, and both teams are shooting 5 of 11. Paul Pierce made a ridiculous move to the basket that got three defenders off balance. It's the kind of extremely difficult move he's made look routine in his 14 seasons.
9:44 1st quarter, Celtics 7-2: Good start by the Celtics. Ray Allen has five points. Lots of Lakers fans in the building for some reason.
Pregame: Lakers coach Mike Brown talked about joining the Lakers-Celtics rivalry:
"I know it's a rivalry obviously because of the history of the two organizations," said Brown. "Not only the individual history, but the history they have playing each other. And you hear about it. People don't want me wearing green to practice."