Bryant Outduels Pierce, Lakers Top Celtics
L.A. Lakers 105, Boston 97
BOSTON, March 20 (Ticker) -- Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce are two of the best fourth-quarter performers in the NBA. However, it was Bryant who turned Monday's collision into a solo show.
Bryant scored 16 of his 43 points in the fourth quarter while Pierce had just two of his 26 in the final 12 minutes as the Los Angeles Lakers captured a 105-97 triumph over the Boston Celtics.
"I'm just doing what I need to so," Bryant said. "When the game's on the line, they put the ball in my hands, and we worked on getting in the position where I could deliver.
"This was a big win for us. This was a must win for us. We had a couple of games on this trip where we played well but we just weren't able to close things out, both (against) New Jersey and Cleveland. Tonight was a win that we desperately needed."
Los Angeles never trailed as its superstar scored 12 points in the opening period en route to his 20th 40-point performance of the season. The Lakers led, 32-26, after the first quarter then held the Celtics to 4-of-19 (21 percent) shooting in the second quarter to take a 56-40 advantage into the locker room.
"That was ugly to watch on our part," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I just thought we never had any rhythm. It started out on the first pass of the game when we threw it backcourt. If you spot them 16 points and they have a guy like Kobe Bryant on their team, eventually during that run he's going to make a shot and I think that's what that it was."
The Celtics nearly didn't have the services of Pierce for the final three quarters after he sprained his right ankle stepping on the left foot of Lakers guard Smush Parker on a drive to the basket.
"I turned (the ankle) in the first quarter and it's a little sore," the Celtics captain said. "I'll see how it feels (Tuesday). I just tried to play through the pain. It's a little sore and there's a sharp pain going through it right now."
Bryant's jumper with 10:18 left in the third quarter gave the Lakers their biggest lead, 61-42, but Boston chipped away throughout the final two periods.
Boston got as close as five points three times in the waning minutes, the last coming on a dunk by Tony Allen, who scored 10 of his season-high 18 points in the fourth quarter, to make it 101-96 with 1:10 left.
Bryant drilled two free throws on Los Angeles' next possession, and Boston responded with an empty possession, despite several chances, sealing the win for the visitors.
Bryant made 18-of-39 shots.
"Kobe fought his way through it tonight," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "It was one of those games where the numbers of shots he took was too high, but he thought he was going to get fouled and he took the shots because he felt the pressure on him."
In the decisive fourth period, Pierce was held to just a lay-up with 1:59 remaining while Bryant scored his team's final 12 points over the final 8:14.
"We just couldn't get any defensive consistency," Pierce said. "They shot well all game and we put ourselves in a hole at halftime. It being the fourth game in five nights and when we have to come back, it's going to be tough. You just can't dig a hole like that and expect to just come back because you're at home."