Final: Lakers 92, Celtics 86. The Celtics didn't give up until the final minute. But with only seven bodies on their side, and Kobe Bryant playing like a man possessed, they didn't have a chance.
Ray Allen breaks the NBA's all-time record for made 3-pointers, but the night is tarnished as his C's fall to the Lakers at home. They settle for a season series split with the Lakers after a win 10 days ago.
Kobe leads the way with 23 points; Pau Gasol adds 20 and 10 rebounds for a double-double.
All five Celtic starters finish in double figures, led by Allen with 20. But with no bench, the C's don't have enough to win this one.
They're now off until Sunday, when they take on the Miami Heat with first place in the Eastern Conference on the line. The big games just keep on coming.
Fourth quarter, 48.8 seconds, Lakers 92-84: That might just about do it. Kobe knocks down another big jumper, and the Lakers are up right with under a minute to play.
The Celtics fought hard to win this one, but there's only so much they can do with seven bodies.
Fourth quarter, 2:16, Lakers 88-83: The Celtics have one last push in them — they get a Rajon Rondo bucket, a quick stop, and then a Big Baby hoop. The lead goes from nine to five.
Could the C's come all the way back and steal this one? Don't count them out.
Fourth quarter, 3:11, Lakers 88-79: No stop for the C's. Kobe scores again — he's been a cold-blooded killer in crunch time. The Mamba had three points at halftime; he's now got 21, a game high.
The Celtics are in serious trouble. They don't want to settle for a season split with the Lakers again this year, but that looks inevitable now.
Fourth quarter, 3:26, Lakers 86-79: Kobe Bryant gives the Lakers a quick 4-0 burst, and then Rajon Rondo is called for a foul for tripping Lamar Odom on the other end. The C's might really be coming undone now.
They need a stop, an emphatic one, to turn the tide of this game. Momentum is really not on their side.
Fourth quarter, 5:04, Lakers 82-79: The Lakers are now scoreless in their last 2:10. The Celtics have really clamped down defensively, and it might be enough to put them back in this game.
The Celtics are getting killed on the glass, 42-32, and they have practically no bench. If they can pull off this win, it'll make a huge statement.
Fourth quarter, 6:23, Lakers 82-79: The Celtics are moving the ball beautifully. Glen Davis makes the extra pass, and that sets up a drive for a Rajon Rondo layup. The lead is now three.
If the C's keep stringing together stops, they'll have plenty of chances to tie this ballgame. And then some.
Fourth quarter, 8:12, Lakers 80-75: There's Ray's 3-pointer No. 2,562. Reggie Miller is now a distant sight in his rear-view mirror, and more importantly, the Celtics are within five.
They need Allen and Pierce to knock down a few more jumpers down the stretch.
Fourth quarter, 8:50, Lakers 78-70: The Celtics' only basket in this quarter is a Kendrick Perkins dunk off a Ray Allen assist. They haven't gotten enough out of Ray (since the first quarter) or Pierce to stay alive in this game.
They need to get back to moving the ball and getting good looks. Early on, they were dominating this game because their shooting numbers were through the roof; now they're under 40 percent as a team.
Fourth quarter, 9:55, Lakers 77-68: The Lakers open the fourth quarter on a 5-0 run; Doc yanks Glen Davis out and reinserts Kevin Garnett at the four. He might have to ride his starting five for the rest of the way.
The C's need an inspired fourth quarter from their starters. It's their only hope.
End of third quarter, Lakers 72-68: It's a war of attrition out there, and the Celtics are starting to fall behind.
The Celtics' rotation now runs eight deep, as Avery Bradley sneaks onto the floor for a few seconds toward the end of the third quarter. But for the most part, the burden is on the starters to do this themselves, and that can't be easy.
The C's get outscored 27-15 in the third quarter. Their offense is fallen extremely flat, and they might be too tired to return to form.
As for the Lakers, they've got problems too — Lamar Odom has a bloody gash on his head, and he's out of commission for the moment. They could sure use him in the fourth quarter.
Third quarter, 3:11, Lakers 66-64: Kevin Garnett has taken over for the Celtics on the glass. He's now got eight rebounds to go along with his 10 points, a near double-double already.
With all the injured bigs on this Celtics roster, KG's play has been huge. The C's need him desperately in this matchup.
Third quarter, 4:02, Lakers 66-64: Kobe Bryant now has 13 points, 10 of them in this quarter. He knows how to turn it on when his team demands it.
It's been an impressively efficient night for Kobe — 13 points on only nine shots. He's been mostly an afterthought in the Lakers' offense, letting Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum draw most of the focus.
Third quarter, 5:56, Lakers 61-60: Now it's the Lakers' turn to go on a run, rattling off six quick points to reclaim the lead. Bynum and Gasol continue to walk all over Kendrick Perkins inside.
This second half has been all runs: 10-0 Lakers, 7-0 Celtics, 6-0 Lakers.
Third quarter, 8:21, Celtics 60-55: It's a game of runs, they always say. The Celtics go on a 7-0 spurt of their own, capped off by a short jumper from Kendrick Perkins.
The C's are playing with only seven bodies in this second half, basically. Nate Robinson has a bruised right knee and is done for the night, and Doc doesn't appear to trust either of his two rookies, Luke Harangody or Avery Bradley, to contribute in a big game like this.
That means Glen Davis and Von Wafer are the only two bench guys left. If the Celtics can hold the lead with a rotation this tight, it'll be truly impressive.
Third quarter, 10:18, Lakers 55-53: The Lakers have opened the second half on a 10-0 run, taking the lead away from the Celtics in shocking fashion. A second ago, the C's were in control; they're now starting to come undone.
Kobe Bryant has turned it on. He had three points at the break; he's since poured in five more.
It was only a matter of time, wasn't it?
Halftime, Celtics 53-45: The Lakers go on a 10-0 run toward the end of the half, which leaves the C's clinging to a eight-point edge at the break. At this point, they'll take whatever lead they can get.
The biggest factor in the Lakers' comeback has been rebounding. They've got a 23-15 advantage over the C's on the glass so far — Kendrick Perkins has been a beast inside, but the lack of depth in the Boston big man corps has been a clear problem.
The Celtics have been led in this first half by 14 points from the man of honor, Ray Allen. The Lakers get 12 each from their two starting bigs, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
Second quarter, 2:19, Celtics 49-38: The Lakers go on a quick 6-2 run, capped off by a monstrous Shannon Brown dunk in transition. They're starting to make their push.
In a moment, they'll get a chance to keep chipping away. Andrew Bynum just got hacked in the act by Kevin Garnett, so he'll be heading to the line for two.
Kobe is the Lakers' secret weapon, apparently. They're saving him for when they really need him.
Second quarter, 4:05, Celtics 47-32: Ray runs the floor and throws down a dunk; Von Wafer also drives to the basket for a quick two. Those two guys have combined for 22 points in this first half; meanwhile their opposing shooting guard, Kobe Bryant, has just two.
This is a little too good to be true, Celtics fans. Kobe will turn it on before too much longer.
Second quarter, 6:11, Celtics 42-30: Nate Robinson hobbles into the locker room, favoring his right leg. This doesn't look good at all.
But meanwhile, the C's have gotten a dazzling performance so far out of their other backup guard — Von Wafer has come off the bench for six points on 2-of-3 shooting, including a 3. He's also got an assist, a steal and a block.
This is the best we've seen Wafer all season. He's playing like a man possessed.
Second quarter, 8:55, Celtics 37-25: The C's quickly widen their lead from seven to 12 with a motley mix of backups on the floor. Glen Davis has led the bench guys with five points, while Von Wafer has played with tremendous energy and chipped in three.
The C's are outshooting the Lakers by a country mile so far, 58.3 percent to 42.3. They've been the more aggressive, more energetic team all night, but there's still plenty more basketball to be played.
End of first quarter, Celtics 27-20: The good news for the Celtics is that they have a seven-point lead at the break. The even better news is they have a moment to congratulate Ray Allen on his accomplishment.
The Celtics introduce Ray as the game's all-time 3-point king at the end of the first quarter; after taking in the fans' long ovation, the Celtics' guard goes over to the scorer's table and embraces Reggie Miller. He then finds his mother, followed by his wife and kids. An emotional moment for all.
Meanwhile, the C's lead the Lakers by seven, thanks to 12 points from — guess who? Ray Allen.
You couldn't ask for a better first quarter than that.
First quarter, 1:48, Celtics 22-15: It's over — he's done it. Ray Allen has made the 2,561st 3-point field goal of his career, erasing Reggie Miller from the record books and setting a new all-time record of his own.
The standing ovation at the TD Garden has gone on for over two minutes. He deserves another hour.
First quarter, 2:56, Celtics 19-14: Ray connects on another corner jumper, a long two that puts the Celtics back into a five-point lead. The Lakers are really struggling early to contain the C's shooters — they need a timeout with 2:56 left.
Ray takes the opportunity to soak in his teammates' congratulations during the timeout. He's earned this moment — it reflects 15 years of his hard work.
First quarter, 4:05, Celtics 17-12: Welcome to the record books, Ray. The Celtics' shooting guard has connected on his first 3-pointer of the night and 2,560th of his career, tying Reggie Miller for the all-time record.
He also lines up to take another on the following possession, but that rims out. For the moment, he and Reggie will share history.
First quarter, 5:58, Celtics 12-10: Kendrick Perkins is slow to get started in his first start against the Lakers since Game 6, but here he makes a nice play under the basket to draw a foul from Ron Artest, and he drains two shots.
There's a lot of pressure on Perk in this ballgame — he's got no true backup, so he'll be relied upon for a ton of minutes against the Lakers. We'll see if he can keep muscling up to Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol all night.
First quarter, 7:24, 8-8: The TD Garden crowd lets out a loud roar of disappointment as Ray Allen squares up for a corner 3, and — clang. It rims out.
Ray's also already taken a couple of long twos early on, so he's tantalizing his fans in more ways than one.
First quarter, 8:57, Lakers 6-4: Forgotten amid all the Ray drama is the endless rivalry between Paul Pierce and Ron Artest.
Ron-Ron draws first blood in that one, driving to the basket for a short jumper and giving the Lakers a 6-4 lead.
First quarter, 11:17, Lakers 2-0: The Lakers get a stop on the first possession of the night, and Kobe Bryant gets a drive to the basket for a bucket on the other end. The Lakers have an early lead.
Kobe is guarding Rajon Rondo, which should make things really interesting. Derek Fisher will be checking Ray Allen as the Celtics' guard chases down Reggie Miller.
7:30 p.m.: Doc Rivers has confirmed that Paul Pierce is in the house and will play Thursday night against the Lakers. The captain called in sick to practice Wednesday afternoon, but the coach now says he's "feeling better" and will start.
Exactly how many minutes does Pierce have in him, though? That part's still up in the air. With Marquis Daniels injured and no clear backup in place for Pierce, Doc's job could become tricky.
6 p.m.: Welcome to the TD Garden, where Ray Allen is one 3-pointer away from tying Reggie Miller for the all-time record, and the Celtics are one win away from making a big statement about their status as Team to Beat.
This is the biggest game of the Celtics' season for many reasons. Don't miss a millisecond.
8 a.m.: The Celtics are enduring their toughest stretch this season right now in more ways than one. Not only are they facing a murderer's row of elite NBA opponents this February, but the injuries to their key bench guys are really piling up.
Thursday night might bring the toughest matchup yet, as the defending champion Lakers arrive in Boston eager to avenge a loss from two weeks earlier.
And the Celtics will be without Marquis Daniels, Delonte West and all three of their backup centers (Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal, Semih Erden). It doesn't leave many bodies left. But the guys who remain aren't too worried.
"It don't matter," Glen Davis said after practice Wednesday. "I don't care who I guard. If I've got to guard Kobe [Bryant], I'll guard him."
The Celtics find themselves limping into Thursday's matchup with the purple and gold. Their starting five is the best it's been all season (assuming Paul Pierce gets over his day-to-day illness), but the bench is in shambles. Outside of Davis, Nate Robinson and Von Wafer, Doc Rivers doesn't have much to work with.
But there are no excuses — especially not against the Lakers, who have battled their own fair share of injuries. The C's have to make do with the bodies they have.
Expect both teams to lean on their starting fives for plenty of minutes. You'll see plenty of head-to-head clashes between Kevin Garnett and Pau Gasol, Paul Pierce and Ron Artest, and of course Ray Allen and Kobe Bryant. Bryant will be out for revenge after a frustrating loss on Jan. 30; Allen will be out for history. He stands one 3-pointer short of Reggie Miller for the NBA's all-time record.
This one's got storylines packed tighter than sardines. Stay tuned and watch it all unfold.