The Los Angeles Lakers displayed the toughness they lacked last season to beat the Boston Celtics 92-83 and end the NBA champions' franchise-best 19-game winning streak yesterday.
Kevin Garnett (L) of Boston Celtics tries to pass the ball during the NBA games against Los Angeles in Los Angeles December 25, 2008.(Xinhua Photo)
Pau Gasol scored seven successive points in the final three minutes and Kobe Bryant had a game-high 27 points as the Lakers (24-5) earned a measure of revenge against the Celtics.
It was the first meeting between the two since the Celtics beat the Lakers 4-2 in the best-of-seven NBA finals in June.
"It was fun just because of the challenge of stopping the streak," Bryant told reporters. "We made the right plays. They were determined not to let me beat them, and Pau (Gasol) did a great job stepping up and hitting big shots."
Kevin Garnett recorded 22 points and nine rebounds and Paul Pierce had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, who still lead the Eastern Conference with a 27-3 record.
Trailing for most of the game, Boston held an 81-79 lead with four minutes remaining before the Lakers answered with clutch plays.
Gasol made a 15-foot jump shot to give Los Angeles an 83-81 lead with 2:47 remaining, and followed with two driving shots both assisted by Bryant.
The Spanish power forward then blocked a three-point attempt by Boston's Ray Allen in the final minute.
"In the first half I thought he was thinking too much," Bryant said of Gasol's play.
"I had to remind him at halftime that you're one of the best players in the world, and to go out there and play like it."