It's hard to imagine a more frustrating finish for Boston, which played a very good game for the first time in a week but could not find enough points down the stretch to break out of this slump.
By the way, Allen had another poor shooting performance, one of a handful he has had of late. I know shooters are streaky, but he hasn't found that stroke very much this season. He missed all six of his 3-pointers in this one.
The C's have dropped 11 of 17 and continue this brutal stretch with a visit to Washington on Monday night. They figure to get their 30th win at some point, so follow along with us as they go for it again.
Fourth quarter, 7.3 seconds, Lakers 90-89: Truly incredible.
Ray Allen plays very good defense on Kobe Bryant but the "Black Mamba" comes through in the clutch. He has been bottled up all game but may have hit the biggest shot when it mattered most. That's why he is who he is.
Fourth quarter, 1:20, Celtics 87-86: A Rajon Rondo baseline jumper is not the shot the Celtics want in these moments, but Kendrick Perkins grabs a huge offensive rebound to keep the possession.
That said, it's hard to say where you would want to go right here. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have struggled and the C's two big men are not adding a ton more on the offensive end. Rondo has been the best scorer of the bunch, just not always from 17 feet out.
Fourth quarter, 1:54, Celtics 87-84: A 59.7 percent free-throw shooter coming in, Kendrick Perkins makes just 1-of-2 and it is still a one-possession game.
Fourth quarter, 2:23, Celtics 86-84: Probably not the best shot by Ron Artest right there, but the Lakers are given a reprieve when Rajon Rondo travels moments later.
The C's offense has stalled here in the fourth. They are 4-of-13 from the floor and have just two baskets in the last seven minutes.
We've seen a ton of late collapses by this team. Will this one, on national TV against the champs at home, be another?
Fourth quarter, 4:05, Celtics 84-82: It's a one-possession game after Shannon Brown slams in a follow of a miss by Andrew Bynum.
Fourth quarter, 5:50, Celtics 84-78: It looked like the Celtics got the raw end of the deal moments ago when officials said one of their shots did not touch the rim, giving Boston just five seconds on the shot clock.
Replays seem to indicate that it did in fact grab iron and they should've had 24 to work with. Alas, Rajon Rondo had to force up a layup in traffic that missed badly.
Fourth quarter, 8:00, Celtics 81-74: Credit has to be given to the Celtics' second unit, which suffered through some dismal stretches on the two-game road swing down South.
Boston has the lead but has still been able to limit the minutes of several starters. Rajon Rondo will lead the way with 38 minutes, but all others are well under 30 at the moment.
Fourth quarter, 8:11, Celtics 81-74: Tony Allen throws the ball away and Doc Rivers cannot get Rajon Rondo into the game any faster.
Allen has played a great game, but it's always an iffy proposition with him running point. And you cannot afford turnovers like that at this juncture in the game.
Fourth quarter, 9:00, Celtics 81-70: Make it all eight of the Celtics points in the fourth as Eddie House hits his second 3-pointer of the quarter.
Fourth quarter, 9:30, Celtics 78-70: Eddie House and Tony Allen, who are sharing the point guard duties with Rajon Rondo on the bench, have all five of the Celtics' points here early in the fourth.
End of third quarter, Celtics 73-66: Players and coaches are loathe to ever admit such things, but if pressed, I'm sure the Celtics would tell you this is a critical final 12 minutes.
With two losses in the rear-view mirror and a road game tomorrow night, notching a win against the champs would go a long way toward establishing some sort of order.
The C's are in great shape. They are still shooting better than 50 percent, are now winning the battle of the boards and continue to force the Lakers into some bad passes. And when in doubt, just look to Rajon Rondo. As mentioned earlier, L.A. has tried multiple defenders on the Boston point guard and none have worked.
Rondo has 21 points, 11 assists and one turnover in 30 minutes of play. He is out of the game for now but will come back rested in a few minutes.
Third quarter, 1:21, Celtics 71-64: The C's keep mixing up looks on Kobe Bryant and it continues to work. On one possession it will be Rajon Rondo with a double team from Kendrick Perkins.
The next time down the floor Ray Allen is on Bryant with Rasheed Wallace closing in to help out. And we all know what Tony Allen did to Bryant in the first half.
Bryant has 11 points and four turnovers.
Third quarter, 3:33, Celtics 67-62: Andrew Bynum loses the ball in the lane for the Lakers' 13th turnover and Kevin Garnett converts on the break with a layup over Ron Artest, who had intercepted a Garnett pass moments earlier.
Some hearty boos as a Lakers fan is shown dancing on the big screen.
Third quarter 4:46, Celtics 65-62: Kevin Garnett gets the Celtics' first blocked shot of the game and Kendrick Perkins converts on the other end with a layup and a foul.
Perkins missed the free throw and then made just 1-of-2 moments later.
Third quarter, 6:00, Celtics 62-60: Rajon Rondo with two straight baskets, one on a simple jumper to beat the shot clock and another on a second chance inside after he got a board among the trees.
Third quarter, 8:08, Celtics 58-56: Back-to-back offensive fouls are whistled on the Celtics, the second of which saw a nice acting job by Pau Gasol.
The Lakers are on an 8-2 run.
Third quarter, 8:59, Celtics 58-52: The Lakers are having all sorts of issues trying to contain Rajon Rondo.
Kobe Bryant has been guarding him and doing an OK job, but he just lost Rondo completely underneath, leading to an easy layup for the C's point guard.
And whenever Derek Fisher or Luke Walton are defending Rondo it is a complete mismatch.
Third quarter, 11:55, Celtics 52-47: We are underway in the second half, but first a few notes on halftime.
I'm not sure if it means anything at all but the Lakers did not emerge from the locker room until there was about three minutes left in the intermission, roughly four minutes after most of the Celtics were on the floor.
Also, Eddie House hit a shot from beyond half-court as he was leaving the floor.
Halftime, Celtics 52-47: The Lakers score the last five points of the half but the second quarter still may go down as the best of the season for the Celtics, given the opponent.
In the 12 minutes Boston shot 13-of-22, outrebounded LA 13-8, forced six turnovers and limited the Lakers to a 7-of-17 showing from the floor.
The buzz is all about Tony Allen, who led the C's with 12 points and a pair of steals in a team-high 21 minutes and has made Kobe Bryant look pedestrian at times.
Second quarter, 2:00, Celtics 49-42: Kobe Bryant's hook breaks a 15-0 Celtics run.
Second quarter, 3:23, Celtics 46-40: An offensive foul on Kobe Bryant (more tremendous defense by Tony Allen), a dunk by Kendrick Perkins and the Celtics are rolling.
Going back to the first quarter, it is a 29-10 run.
The Lakers are loaded, no doubt, but it goes to show you how limited they can become when Bryant offers little. He now has seven points on 3-of-7 shooting and three turnovers in 18 minutes. He has also missed his only two free throws.
Also, Kendrick Perkins, with the help of a few double teams, has shut down Andrew Bynum here in the second.
Second quarter, 4:20, Celtics 43-40: Paul Pierce drills the Celtics' first 3-pointer in seven tries to give the home team the lead for the first time since it was 8-7.
But Kobe Bryant missing two free throws on the other end may have pleased the fans even more.
Second quarter, 4:57, 40-40: This place has come alive as the Celtics, once down 13 have stormed back to tie it. After Rajon Rondo found Kendrick Perkins for a game-tying slam it was just about the loudest it's been all season in the Garden.
Boston has yet to commit a turnover in the second quarter after giving away seven possessions in the first. And Tony Allen has completely taken Kobe Bryant out of the mix.
Bryant has seven points and two turnovers in 16-plus minutes.
Second quarter, 6:35, Lakers 40-36: This is becoming the Tony Allen show at the Garden. He just hit a long jumper (we know that is not his strong suit) and leads the Celtics with 12 points.
He then forced Kobe Bryant into a near impossible shot (even for him). Great work on both ends for Allen.
Second quarter, 8:58, Lakers 35-29: There are some "oohs" and "aahs" as Rajon Rondo easily loses Luke Walton with a crossover dribble and then is fouled by a desperate Walton.
Walton has fouled Rondo three times in 100 seconds of play here in the second quarter. Phil Jackson may want to find someone else to mark the C's little man.
Second quarter, 9:26, Lakers 34-29: A three-point play for Rajon Rondo gives the Celtics a 10-4 run to start the second quarter.
Second quarter, 10:18, Lakers 34-26: Tony Allen now has six points and a pair of steals since checking in for Paul Pierce early in the first quarter, while keeping Kobe Bryant and others in check. He has also missed a pair of chippies.
It's a noteworthy development because Pierce should be well-rested when he returns and can give the C's good minutes to close the half.
End of first quarter, Lakers 30-19: Seven turnovers, some of the ugly variety, kill the Celtics in the first quarter. The last came when Ray Allen's cross-court pass was intercepted by Jordan Farmar for an easy dunk on the other end.
Boston played the bulk of that quarter without Paul Pierce and Kendrick Perkins. Tony Allen filled in admirably for Pierce — despite having one of those ugly turnovers — but the replacements for Perkins struggled to contain Andrew Bynum.
The Lakers shot 61 percent in the first in large part due to a number of easy looks underneath for Bynum and others. They also made two of their three 3-pointers while the C's were 0-of-4 from downtown.
First quarter, 1:42, Lakers 26-14: Andrew Bynum's dunk moments later simply stresses the interior dominance early on for the Lakers. They have gotten to the line five times to the Celtics' zero and the bulk of their points are coming inside.
Bynum has 10 points and four rebounds already, most of it coming after Kendrick Perkins left with his second foul. Kevin Garnett and Rasheed Wallace have not been up to the task against the much younger Bynum.
First quarter, 3:04, Lakers 24-12: Rasheed Wallace and Pau Gasol come together following a Gasol foul. Both pick up technicals. For Wallace, that's an NBA-leading 14.
First quarter, 4:36, Lakers 20-10: Kobe Bryant hits a 3-pointer with Tony Allen all over him and moments later a fifth Celtics turnover leads to a layup for Pau Gasol.
The C's looked pretty slow up the court on that fast break.
First quarter, 5:54, Lakers 13-10: Now it is Kendrick Perkins who is called for foul No. 2, the fifth foul on the Celtics in the early going. It was an offensive foul, going into the books as the fourth turnover already for Boston.
Rasheed Wallace is checking in for Perkins.
First quarter, 6:06, Lakers 13-10: After Kobe Bryant hit a short jumper moments ago, he was very ginger on his left side heading back up the floor. Might be worth watching as the game gets into the later stages.
First quarter, 7:25, Celtics 8-7: Figures I pinpoint the matchup to watch and both players are gone in four minutes with two fouls apiece. Ron Artest gets his second in a battle for a rebound with Tony Allen.
On the other end, Ray Allen gives the Celtics the lead back.
First quarter, 8:25, Lakers 7-4: Building on that last note, Kobe Bryant is now guarding Rajon Rondo, a matchup we will likely see more of on that end of the floor.
Paul Pierce has picked up his second foul and Tony Allen makes an early entrance. The officials are calling it tight here early.
First quarter, 9:23, Lakers 5-4: As Ron Artest hits a 3-pointer, it becomes evident how many Lakers fans are in the house. On the possession, Rajon Rondo was on Kobe Bryant, and the C's have been mixing up defensive assignments plenty early on, perhaps an effort to throw the Lakers off a bit.
First quarter, 11:35, Lakers 2-0: It took Paul Pierce 16 seconds to pick up the game's first foul and Kendrick Perkins was given the second on the ensuing inbounds play. Yikes.
First quarter, 11:55, 0-0: We are underway in this one and the matchup to watch, in my opinion, is Paul Pierce and Ron Artest.
Pierce had his best game since returning from his knee injury in Friday's loss at Atlanta, scoring a season-high 35 points. Artest, as we know, can shut anyone down but is playing through plantar fasciitis.
3:33 p.m.: We were just treated to a national anthem rendition from Rene Rancourt, normally seen on the ice before Bruins games. Guess they're bringing out the big dogs for this one.
3:05 p.m.: Greetings from the Garden, where every media member under the sun has descended upon this matchup of the last two NBA champs.
Due to the crowded situation we will be following this one from the "Halo" high above the court and far from the din of the "Beat L.A." chants, several of which were heard as I walked in today.
We just heard from Doc Rivers and Phil Jackson, who downplayed the significance of the contest except as a measuring stick for their respective clubs.
Jackson also indicated that Kobe Bryant's left ankle, which was twisted in Friday's win at Philadelphia, was still giving him some problems.
"He wasn't very limber on it yesterday. He was slow to move," Jackson said before stressing that it should not slow Bryant down much.
Certainly worth watching.
Rivers was also asked about his wounded warriors, and said it's just a matter of playing through pain at this point.
"Right now our biggest issues with our injuries is that they are not ready to play basketball at this level," Rivers said, specifically alluding to Kevin Garnett. "The only way to do that is to keep them on the floor and let them play through it."
The two coaches have put in their starting lineups. Rivers goes with the usual five of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Pierce, Garnett and Kendrick Perkins.
Jackson will start Bryant, Derek Fisher, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
Time to head upstairs. Will check in from there on the vibe inside TD Garden. With the Celtics in need of a win to hang their hat onto and the Lakers being the ones in the way, it figures to be a pretty charged up environment.
12:19 p.m.: Ten losses in 16 games. A quickly shrinking Atlantic Division lead. Ineffectiveness at home. Concern that injuries and age may be too much to overcome this season.
That can all be rendered a relative afterthought if the Celtics can defeat the Los Angeles Lakers in a matinee at the TD Garden. Taking out the champs, especially an opponent as hated as the Lakers, can have that effect.
Boston is in need of a statement win, too. The last one may have come Christmas Day in Orlando, when the C's improved to 23-5 with a dominant defensive effort. That preceded the 6-10 stretch that has them limping into the 271st regular-season meeting with Los Angeles.
The Celtics are coming off back-to-back losses in Orlando and Atlanta, the two teams with whom they are battling it out behind Cleveland in the Eastern Conference. They trimmed a 14-point deficit down to one against the Hawks on Friday, but were unable to get over the hump and fell 100-91.
For the Lakers, it's the seventh of eight straight road games. They improved to 4-2 on the trip with a 99-91 win at Philadelphia on Friday. Kobe Bryant scored 24 points and enters the Garden 48 points shy of becoming the all-time leading Lakers scorer.
Los Angeles swept two games with Boston last season, picking up a one-point win in overtime the last time at the Garden. Tip for this one is set for just after 3:30 p.m., and I'll be courtside to bring you all the action.