With the Lakers cutting the Boston lead down to four with 5:13 to play, the Celtics were given something of a gut check.
They responded in kind with an 18-9 run to end it, playing arguably their best stretch of basketball all season.
It's a nice change of pace, too, for a Celtics team that had played a pair of ugly games on this current trip out west.
Fourth quarter, 1:29, Celtics 105-91: That will probably do it.
The Celtics were looking at an important stretch of about five minutes of basketball, and they saved their best stretch for those five minutes.
A 14-4 run capped by Kevin Garnett finding a wide-open Rajon Rondo should ice an impressive win for the Celtics in Los Angeles.
Fourth quarter, 4:03, Celtics 98-87: Well then. The Celtics respond in a big way.
Kevin Garnett hits a jumper, Glen Davis picks up a three-point play and then Rajon Rondo finds Garnett for an alley-oop capping a 7-0 run.
The Celtics grab their biggest lead of the game — 11 points — and Phil Jackson takes a timeout.
Fourth quarter, 5:19, Celtics 91-87: The next 5:19 may be the best indication of where this Celtics team is at right now.
The C's have had their struggles in closing out games over the past couple of years, and they'll get a chance to show where they're at right now.
They're clinging to a small lead, Kobe Bryant is heating up and they're in a "hostile" envrionment. With the season a little more than halfway through, this will be a good barometer of where the Celtics are at.
Fourth quarter, 9:00, Celtics 87-78: The Celtics continue to get strong contributions late in this one from their guards, particularly Rajon Rondo and Nate Robinson.
Robinson has 11 off the bench, and Rondo continues to put together a nice second half.
Adding the good vibes for the C's, Kobe Bryant just sat down with four fouls.
Believe it or not, he was not thrilled with the call that sent him to the bench.
End of third quarter, Celtics 77-70: After an ill-advised turnover, Rajon Rondo finds Nate Robinson for a 3-pointer, and then takes a charge, all in the last 19 seconds of the quarter.
The sequence ensures that the Celtics take a seven-point lead to the fourth quarter.
Third quarter, 1:56, Celtics 74-70: This has all of the makings of one heckuva finish.
The Celtics and Lakers are bringing their best right now. Paul Pierce has cooled since the start of the quarter, but the teams continue to trade buckets, including a sequence featuring a Kobe Bryant 3-pointer and a Kevin Garnett turnaround, neither of which hit anything but net.
Rajon Rondo has shown some signs of waking up, but if he can really get things going, he could certainly be an x-factor in the foruth quarter. He's obviously capable of taking over a game, and if he can do that in this one on top of what Pierce has given today, the Celtics will be alright.
Third quarter, 5:12, Celtics 68-62: Paul Pierce has taken over. The Celtics captain has 13 third-quarter points, and as a result, the Celtics now own a six-point lead.
Pierce isn't doing it from everywhere. He's knocked down a couple of 3-pointers, he's got some buckets cutting to the hoop and really, he's just feeling it right now.
His game-high 30 points have the Celtics up halfway through the third.
Third quarter, 9:00 Lakers 59-58: Shaquille O'Neal's introduction to the Celtics-Lakers rivalry from the eastern part of the country is not going very well to say the least. Shaq just picked up foul No. 5. He's going to take a seat, still yet to score a point.
The good news, though, is that Paul Pierce has started the second half like he did the first. He's got six quick points to open the second, and the Celtics trail by only a point.
Halftime, Lakers 54-50: If anything else, it was an interesting half of basketball in Los Angeles. The Celtics were able to rid themselves of an ugly stretch of starts, but the problems came when they tried to finish the half.
Kobe Bryant, however, exploded in that second quarter, and he's the No. 1 reason the Celtics are heading to recess trailing by four.
It's probably safe to assume that Doc Rivers, who gets upset when his team gives up 45 first-half points, isn't thrilled about the defensive performance in the first half. More specifically, he can't be happy with his team allowing 33 points in the second quarter alone.
It's another quiet start for Rajon Rondo, though. The Celtics point guard has just four points (on 2-of-5 shooting), but the more surprising stat is his one assist.
2nd Quarter, 0:00.7, Lakers 54-50: Lamar Odom picks up arguably the worst foul in NBA history. With 0.7 to play in the first, Odom inexplicably fouls Glen Davis at halfcourt as Davis launches a desperation heave before the buzzer.
He makes two of three, and the Celts head to the locker room down by four.
2nd Quarter, 1:00, Lakers 51-48: After getting in foul trouble early on, Kobe Bryant has found his stride offensively, but it's in part thanks to Ray Allen's foul trouble.
Allen, who picked up two quick ones as well, hasn't been as aggressive defensively. As a result, Bryant has scored eight points in the last two minutes.
He's got a game-high 20 points
2nd Quarter, 2:28, Lakers 44-42: Pau Gasol's patented volleyball spike offensive rebound ends up in the hands of Kobe Bryant, who, of course, drills a 3-pointer to give the Lakers the lead.
The Bryant trey puts the exclamation point on what's been a 13-2 run for the Lakers to give them the lead.
Right on cue, Staples Center reaches its loudest level all afternoon.
2nd Quarter, 4:09, Celtics 42-36: Kevin Garnett returns to the lineup for the Celtics sporting an unsightly bandage on his forehead. Sounds like he'll need stiches after the game.
As the Lakers cut the lead to four, Garnett drills an 18-footer to give the Celtics a six-point lead.
2nd Quarter, 6:21, Celtics 38-31: Kevin Garnett was just cut open pretty good after ending up on the receiving end of a Pau Gasol elbow.
Gasol caught KG with the inadverdent elbow as Gasol elevated for a shot. Garnett heads to the locker room for repairs.
2nd Quarter, 8:32, Celtics 36-27: Outside a seemingly never-ending stream of energy, you never know what you're going to get from Nate Robinson from night to night. So far, the C's have gotten the good Robinson who has provided a spark off the bench to open the second.
He's got five points and an assist as the C's turn a temporary one-point deficit into a nine-point lead.
2nd Quarter, 10:07, Celtics 30-25: For those keeping track, Ray Allen is now just 14 3-pointers behind Reggie Miller for the all-time NBA record.
End of first quarter, Celtics 22-21: Not a pretty end to the first quarter for the Celtics. With Kobe Bryant on the bench with two fouls, the Lakers go on an 11-4 run to end the quarter, and are back within a point.
Andrew Bynum looks strong, he's got a team-high seven points for the Lakers.
For the Celtics, Paul Pierce has a game-high 10. Interestingly enough, the Celtics, who had all kinds of problems rebounding the basketball in the Finals, are outrebounding the Lakers by a 14-6 margin.
First quarter, 3:04, Celtics 18-14: It's not a blazing start by any stretch of the imagination, but Doc Rivers has to be somewhat pleased with this start. All things considered, it's their best start of the trip.
First quarter, 4:12, Celtics 16-10: Kendrick Perkins makes his return to the Staples Center court for the first time since that fateful night last June that ended his season in the Finals, and may have cost the Celtics their 18th title.
It's Perkins' fourth game back from the injury, and he's got a night off under his belt since the Phoenix game, so we'll have to see if Doc Rivers starts to stretch the big guy's minutes some.
Already, Perkins has picked up a foul and complains about it. So, some things never change. Good to see the fire, though.
First quarter, 6:25, Celtics 12-9: Daniels' work against Bryant ends up being inconclusive. After coming up short on a jump shot, Bryant commits a silly foul against Daniels who grabbed the rebound. Phil Jackson is forced to sit Bryant for the time being, so there goes that.
Paul Pierce, who always gets up for a trip home to take on the Lakers, is off to a nice start. He's got six points on 2-of-5 shooting from the floor.
First quarter, 7:00, Celtics 10-9: Ray Allen, who does as good a job as you can do against Kobe Bryant everytime the two meet up, was just whistled for his second personal. He'll sit, and Marquis Daniels replaces him.
Replays show that it was probably a bad call, but it will give Celtics fans a chance to see what Daniels can do against Bryant.
Daniels has a deserved reputation as a solid defender, so it's something to keep an eye on.
First quarter, 8:30, Celtics 6-4: Shaquille O'Neal looks like he's moving pretty well in the early minutes against the Lakers. It's his first trip to L.A. as a member of the green, so he's probably playing with a little extra juice today.
3:15 p.m. If the Celtics are going to get things going early and often on Sunday, it's likely going to need to come from point guard Rajon Rondo, who, has had a good amount of success as of late against a Lakers team that has been known to struggle against young, athletic point guards.
From the "For what it's worth" department, Rondo is averaging 14.6 points and 9.1 assists in his last 10 games against L.A. The C's are going to need something comparable out of him on Sunday, if for anything, to snap him out of this little funk he's been in as of late.
3:00 p.m. The Celtics may be without Glen Davis this afternoon in L.A., but the forward's status is being determined at the moment.
Davis has been slowed by a hamstring injury, and it may force him to miss this one. It sounds like Davis is meeting with the medical staff now, and they will make the call on whether Big Baby goes against the Lakers.
Also, Celtics head coach Doc Rivers was fined $15,000 for his actions on Friday night in Phoenix. Rivers was given an early exit after two technical fouls in an ugly Celtics loss.
8 a.m.: Whether they want to admit it or not, the Celtics have probably had Jan. 29 circled on their calender for quite some time. With the way their current road trip has started, however, Los Angeles may be one of the last places Boston wants to be.
Either way, the Celtics return to the Staples Center on Sunday to square off with the Lakers for the first time since Game 7 of the NBA Finals on June 16 of last year. For Celtics center Kendrick Perkins, it's also a return to the place he suffered a devastating knee injury in Game 6 that ended up costing him the majority of this season to this point before his return earlier this week.
The Celtics are looking for a reversal of fortune following what may have been their ugliest loss of the season on Friday night to the Suns in Phoenix. The Celtics were embarrassed from the opening tip by the Suns in a game that ultimately saw the ejection of both Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett.
The ugly loss on Friday night may have been attributed to a late arrival to the desert — the team landed in Phoenix in the wee hours of Friday morning — but it also came on the heels of a mediocre performance on Thursday in Portland. The Celtics escaped Rose Garden with a win, but it wasn't easy.
If the Celtics are going to turn things around, look for them to try to do it early. Rivers expressed displeasure with the way his team has started in its last two contests. On Thursday night, the C's were sluggish, building just a three-point lead after one, a start that looked Herculean compared to the 14-point deficit they faced after the opening stanza on Friday night in Phoenix.
Don't expect the Celtics to be the only team feeling surly on Sunday. Kobe Bryant and the Lakers are looking to bounce back from a disappointing home loss to the lowly Kings on Friday night. In the loss, though, Bryant moved into eighth place all time in scoring.
Both the Celtics and Lakers are first in their respective divisions, but Sunday's matchup would be coming with advanced billing either way. It will likely have a playoff vibe, and if the Celtics are to have any chance to turn this road trip around, they'll have to jump out to an early start on Sunday afternoon in Tinseltown.
Tip is scheduled for 3:30 ET, so check back throughout the afternoon for updates in what could be an NBA Finals preview.
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