GAMEDAY LINKS: Team Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
Box Score Boston Celtics 22 28 27 32 109
Play by Play Los Angeles Lakers 21 33 18 24 96


Celtics beat Lakers 109-96 in NBA finals rematch

By GREG BEACHAM

LOS ANGELES (AP) Paul Pierce scored 32 points, Kevin Garnett had 18 points and 13 rebounds with a large bandage over a cut on his head, and the Boston Celtics won their NBA finals rematch with the Lakers on Sunday, overcoming Kobe Bryant's 41 points in a 109-96 victory.

Ray Allen scored 21 points for the Celtics in the longtime rivals' first meeting since Los Angeles rallied from a late 13-point deficit for an 83-79 win in Game 7 last June, ending an exhausting series in dramatic fashion.

Bryant scored his 27,000th career point but couldn't spark his Lakers teammates, who followed up their Christmas home loss to Miami with another flop against the best of the East.

Pau Gasol had 12 points in a quiet game for Los Angeles, which has lost four of seven.

Boston led throughout the final 21 minutes, but a flurry of points from Bryant pulled the Lakers to 91-87 with 5:20 to play. The Celtics responded with seven consecutive points to start a game-ending 18-9 run, highlighted by Rajon Rondo's smooth alley-oop lob to Garnett for a layup in traffic.

Rondo struggled with his shot, but got 15 of his 16 assists in the second half.

Although the Staples Center crowd pulsed with a palpable edge before the game, the Celtics appeared more pumped for the latest meeting of these longtime rivals, who have won more than half of the NBA's championships and met in 12 NBA finals, including two of the past three.

Boston showed off its enviably complete offensive game, outrebounding the Lakers 43-30, hitting nine 3-pointers and getting 34 assists to Los Angeles' 10. The Eastern Conference leaders have won eight of 10 - and their star big man even showed his grit through a little blood.

Garnett had a gaping cut near his left temple midway through the second quarter after Gasol swiped his hand across it while fighting for the ball. No foul was called, infuriating Celtics coach Doc Rivers and Garnett, who went to the locker room and returned with a large tan bandage on his head.

Los Angeles' fans didn't love Garnett's campaigning for a foul on the play, chanting "Wheelchair!" - a reference to Pierce curiously leaving the court in a wheelchair after hurting his knee during Game 1 the 2008 finals.

Bryant became the youngest player to reach 27,000 points on a 3-pointer late in the third quarter, but he frequently was a one-man show on offense. Ron Artest went 1 for 10, Andrew Bynum had 11 points while struggling with soreness in his left knee, and Lamar Odom had 15 points and five rebounds.

Shaquille O'Neal didn't score and received mostly boos when introduced as the Celtics' starting center. Shaq won three titles and three NBA finals MVP awards during eight seasons with Los Angeles, but he has returned to Staples Center since with four teams - although this choice stung a bit to the isolated fans who shouted "Traitor!"

NOTES: The Lakers visit Boston on Feb. 10. ... The Lakers wore throwback uniforms from their 1971-72 team, albeit with shorts adjusted for modesty. ... Rivers couldn't argue with his $15,000 fine for failing to leave the court quickly enough after his ejection in Phoenix on Friday, although he jokingly suggested the NBA should start a 30-second clock after an ejection so players and coaches know their limit. ... Fans near courtside included Matt Damon, Jimmy Kimmel, Adam Sandler, Brooklyn Decker, Nick Swardson, Red Sox pitcher John Lackey, Zac Efron, former Patriots linebacker Willie McGinest and director Robert Rodriguez.


Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited



15 Second half assists for Rondo, who adjusted extremely well to what the Lakers were trying to accomplish defensively. Nine of those dimes came in the fourth quarter.

16 More total points + rebounds + assists for Kevin Garnett (18, 13 and 5) than Pau Gasol (12, 7 and 1) in a matchup that always defines Lakers – Celtics games in the past four seasons.

18 Fast break points for the Lakers, compared to only five for the Celtics, making Boston's 60 percent shooting even more remarkable as most of the points came in the half court.

41 Points for Kobe Bryant, who started the game hot from the field before cooling while trying to carry the team in the fourth quarter. "I didn't think anybody else wanted the ball," said Phil Jackson. Bryant still finished over 50 percent at 16-of-29 (55.2 percent).

60.3 Boston's shooting percentage for the game, fantastic execution even for the league's best shooting team (50 percent on the season). Paul Pierce made 11-of-18 shots, Kevin Garnett 9-of-12 and Ray Allen 8-of-12.




View More Photos


Points Bryant 16-29 FG 41
Rebounds Gasol 4 OFF 3 DEF 7
Assists Fisher, Odom, Walton 2
Steals Fisher 4
Blocks Blake, Brown, Bynum, Gasol 1

POSTGAME QUOTES

Lakers coach Phil Jackson on today's game:
"Unfortunately there were two halves to the game today. We didn't play very well that second half and they played great. I was pretty pleased with the first half, Rondo with one assist; he ends up the game with 16. They got things going their direction right off the bat and put us on our heels the second half."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson on the difference between their playing in the first half versus the second:
"I thought we took them out of what they wanted to do in the first half, made them have to do something different, and the second half they got almost everything they wanted…"

Lakers coach Phil Jackson on Kobe Bryant's shooting in the final minutes of the game:
"I didn't think anybody else wanted the ball. We did run a couple other plays to get guys into position, but I thought those times he had the best opportunities when other people were moving to the ball. But, a lot of times it didn't look like we were running anything out there offensively."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson on the rest of team letting Kobe Bryant take over in the final minutes:
"I think they backed off. I think, they wanted to let Kobe…he seemed to be the guy that had the hot hand. They wanted to just give him a lot of space instead of just our offense flowing into what we do."

Lakers coach Phil Jackson on being concerned about losing to the "power teams" so far:
"It's not the playoffs yet, we're still playing regular season games. You know, we'll get there in time."


Lakers' guard Kobe Bryant on the Celtics being able to answer the Lakers' offensive runs:
"We gave them too many easy looks and they execute very well. They were able to get any shot they wanted to."

Lakers' guard Kobe Bryant on what the Celtics did different offensively in the 2nd half, specifically Rajon Rondo:

"What they changed is they were bringing guys off of screens a lot more. He was able to hit guys in their shooting pocket. Pierce knocked down some shots, Garnett knocked down some shots. Pierce obviously had a phenomenal game and I think that was the big difference."

Lakers' guard Kobe Bryant on if the team is frustrated with this loss:

"I think guys are just upset probably. They should be. We're not playing very well against these top teams. So we need to elevate our level and we need to get better, if we're to defend our throne."

Lakers' guard Kobe Bryant on if the Celtics came out with more passion:
"I don't think so. I think it was just pure execution. We just made too many mistakes."





Lakers' forward Lamar Odom on if he's disturbed with the Lakers' losses to elite teams:
"When you don't execute, you leave yourself open. You leave your chin open, especially against a team like this that executes and plays tough and plays hard on both ends of the court. We got beat."

Lakers' forward Lamar Odom on the Lakers' offensive performance today:
"We were horrible offensively, as far as our spacing is concerned. Whenever we play games like that, we give Kobe no choice but to try to take over the game. We just didn't get everybody involved like we needed to."





Lakers' center Andrew Bynum on if there is a particular reason the Lakers came out flat in the 2nd half:
"I don't know, we have to figure it out. It always seems to be that third quarter nemesis. We came in and played pretty well in the first half. We battled back when we were down."

Lakers' center Andrew Bynum on if he's concerned about losing to all the top teams:
"It's going to give them momentum for later on in the postseason but it's not something that we can't correct."






Celtics' coach Doc Rivers on if the matchup this year versus the Lakers is any different than last year:
"No, it's two good teams, and both of us have to play better. We want to see each other again. We're both winning games, but honestly we both have to be better teams."

Celtics' coach Doc Rivers on how his team pulled away a little bit in the third quarter:
"Well I thought execution wise, all night we were pretty good. I felt we kind of lost our senses in the second quarter for a stretch, and then we got into…about everything except for playing basketball. You know, and that's what I told them at halftime; just keep playing through anything. I thought we did that. I thought our defense and our rebounding were the key."

Celtics' coach Doc Rivers on if he switched up his defensive strategy to guard Kobe Bryant:
"He just saw new blood. It wasn't anything different. I thought right before Ray [Allen] went out, Kobe was starting to get it going on him and we put Paul [Pierce] on him. I just think Kobe is so good you can't keep one guy on him. Just the look of a different guy, it helped."

Celtics' coach Doc Rivers on his team's high shooting-percentage in the game:
"That's phenomenal. We lead the league in field-goal percentage, and we didn't act like that last two games. Tonight, out of timeouts, our execution…we had a focus tonight and it's amazing that we played with that guys. We don't do that every night unfortunately. As a coach I would like that."

Celtics' coach Doc Rivers on if returning to play in front of the LA crowd was a reason he got into foul trouble:
"No I thought he just got into some foul trouble. You know, Shaq is Shaq, he's going to give us a lift on some nights, some nights he may not…it doesn't look like he does a lot for us, but he does a lot for us."



Celtics' guard Ray Allen on shutting down the Lakers' team:
"When you look at the dynamics of their team, he was taking tough shots and he was making tough shots. We were keeping everybody else out of the game so at least when we got the rebound, we did make them miss we were able to run."

Celtics' guard Ray Allen on defending Kobe Bryant:
"It's always more than just a one man effort. In this league you don't guard anybody one on one."



Celtics' forward Paul Pierce on the importance of tonight's win:
"It is another game but it's definitely an emotional game especially since losing Game 7 here. The thing is when you win a game here now it's not for the championship. It's definitely a regular season game. When we play against the Lakers it really get's our juices going on they are our rivals. It's a big game just knowing that we can come into this building and get a win."

Celtics' forward Paul Pierce on going head to head with Kobe Bryant:
"I don't try and get into a 'mano y mano' game with him. I mean he's one of the greatest players to play this game and I'm out here just trying to help my team win. I just had an opportunity to knock down some shots."

Celtics' forward Paul Pierce on the play of Rajon Rondo:
"I thought we just kept our tempo. That was the key to the game -- [Rajon Rondo's] tempo, control of the game, pushed the ball, [Rondo] just kept them off balance."





Celtics' guard Rajon Rondo on the teams' second half surge:
"We just tried to up the tempo. We got stops so we could push the ball."

Celtics' guard Rajon Rondo on being able to run on the Lakers;
"We knew we could run on LA. Obviously Phoenix, they're a running team so we can't outrun those guys but LA we figure, given the personnel that we have in that line up."

Celtics' guard Rajon Rondo on beating the Lakers:
"I don't have any problems with them. That's just another opponent, me personally. It's just a good win."








LAKERS VS. CELTICS GAME PREVIEW

By GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer

The NBA finals seemed to go on forever last summer, stretching through seven games over two weeks until the exhausted Los Angeles Lakers finally edged the injury-depleted Boston Celtics with their last gasp in the final quarter.

After seven months to recover, the rivals finally are ready to go at each other again.

When they meet Sunday on the same Staples Center court where the Lakers won their 16th title and denied the Celtics their 18th, their epic shared history always looms in the background. They've won more than half of the NBA's total championships and met in 12 NBA finals, including two of the past three.

The franchises' generational animosity has been rekindled, as anybody could tell last June. Just don't expect them to acknowledge it in late January.

"Playing them doesn't really bring up anything extra," Lakers point guard Derek Fisher(notes) said with a shrug.

Yet the unfriendliness of this rivalry manifests itself in weird, subtle ways: According to a widespread Internet rumor backed up by photos from the manufacturer, Kevin Garnett(notes) is expected to wear a special pair of green, suede-covered shoes with "152-120" embroidered on the tongue.

That's the Celtics' overall winning record against the Lakers.

Boston added another spicy element to the rivalry in the offseason by signing Shaquille O'Neal(notes), who won three titles and the NBA finals MVP awards in Los Angeles. Yet the Celtics' 38-year-old backup center is hardly the biggest concern for the Lakers—not with both teams struggling to stay consistent during the grind leading up to the All-Star break.

Both are coming off embarrassing losses Friday night. The Lakers played horribly at home against lowly Sacramento, while Garnett and Celtics coach Doc Rivers were ejected while Boston scored a season-low 71 points in Phoenix. Garnett escaped suspension for hitting Phoenix's Channing Frye(notes) in the groin area, with the NBA saying it isn't looking into the matter but is still reviewing Rivers' actions.

The Celtics, who flew into Los Angeles late Saturday, still lead the Eastern Conference at 35-11, while the Lakers are comfortably in second place in the West at 33-14, well behind overall NBA leader San Antonio.

The Lakers went through a 2 1/2 -hour practice at their training complex in El Segundo on Saturday, but not due to extra preparation for the Celtics. They usually spend the first part of practice correcting the mistakes of their last game, and that portion was extra-long after Friday's 100-95 loss to the 11-win Kings, likely the most embarrassing night of the Lakers' season.

"We've had some tough losses that kind of jump out at you, but it's just about being more consistent," Bryant said. "(We're) right where we need to be."

While the Celtics have showed more consistency than the Lakers this season, Los Angeles hasn't risen to the level of its high-profile showcases. Most notably, the Lakers flopped in a 96-80 Christmas loss to Miami, with Bryant lamenting, "It's like these games mean more to our opponents than they do to us."

The Lakers responded in their biggest game of last season, although they still realize they were fortunate to hang on for an 83-79 victory in Game 7, rallying from a 13-point deficit in the second half. It's tough to look back fondly on such an ugly victory, even if it's one of the biggest wins in Lakers history.

"It was a tough one, sure, having to come back the way we did and taking it from them the way we did," said Bryant, who infamously went 6 for 24 in Game 7.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson said he didn't mention Game 7 or show any clips to his players Saturday, instead using video from Game 6—a blowout Lakers win— to illustrate a few defensive concepts he expects his team to embrace.

"They have good shooters, and they get the ball in the right people's hands," Jackson said. "This is a new year. That's a long time ago, with basketball."

Fisher doesn't see O'Neal's decision to sign with the Celtics as a betrayal of anything they accomplished with Bryant a decade ago, largely because Boston wasn't those Lakers' biggest rival. The Celtics missed the playoffs during the Lakers' title runs in 2000 and 2001, then lost to New Jersey in the 2002 Eastern Conference finals.

"The years we were here, the Celtics' mystique wasn't really where it has got back to," Fisher said. "We basically played them once every nine months, and that was the extent of the rivalry."

O'Neal and Bryant appear to be on friendly terms now, the jealousies of the past decade largely ignored publicly—aside from an occasional sarcastic comment. When asked after Game 7 what a fifth title meant to him, Bryant immediately noted he has one more ring than Shaq.

Although O'Neal's No. 34 jersey is likely to hang alongside Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's No. 33 and Wilt Chamberlain's No. 13 in the Staples Center rafters, the Lakers don't begrudge him returning in green.

"I don't think it's too weird," Bryant said. "I don't really hold too much significance to the fact that he's playing with the Celtics. I don't think Lakers fans as a whole are. I don't think it's that big of a deal."






Lakers Matt Barnes (right knee surgery) is out.
Derrick Caracter
(sprained left ankle) is questionable.
Theo Ratliff
(left knee surgery) is doubtful.

Delonte West (broken right wrist) is out.
Jermaine O'Neal
(sore left knee) is out.



1/30 - BOS @ LAL
2/10 - LAL @ BOS


Boston has the second best record in the league at 35-11, trailing only the San Antonio Spurs for best record and homecourt throughout the playoffs. This is a veteran team made up of quality professionals who know how to win. Their team depth has sustained them through numerous injuries. They know their roles and rarely deviate from them as they are one of the more unselfish teams in the NBA. Simply put, the ball moves with this team and usually finds the best offensive opportunity (they are 1st in assists and field goal %). Having said that, Defense is what this team hangs their hats on and they rank in the top of the league in most defensive categories.

Read Full Scouting Report @ Lakers Courtside Connection


GAME NOTES

SEASON& SERIES NOTES; CONNECTIONS
The Lakers split last season's series with the Celtics 1-1 after sweeping their 2008-09 series with Boston 2-0. The two teams have met 181 times since the Lakers moved to Los Angeles prior to the 1960-61 season with Los Angeles trailing the series 83-98. Including their time in Minneapolis, the Lakers and Celtics have met 272 times in all with Boston leading the all-time series 152-120. The Lakers are 6-4 against the Celtics in their last 10 overall regular season meetings. In Boston, the Lakers are 6-4 in their last 10 regular season games at TD Garden while in Los Angeles, the Lakers are 7-4 all-time against the Celtics at STAPLES Center (regular season). Under head coach Phil Jackson, the Lakers are 13-7 against Boston during the regular season. With the Lakers 92-83 Christmas Day victory in 2008, Phil Jackson recorded his 1,000th career victory as an NBA head coach. Under Jackson, the Lakers have swept Boston on five occasions while twice being swept by the Celtics during the regular season. In 22 career regular season games against Boston including 19 starts, Kobe Bryant is averaging 24.8 points, but missed their most recent regular season meeting (2/18/10) with a left ankle injury. Celtics forward Paul Pierce grew up in Southern California, attending Inglewood High. Celtics center Shaquille O'Neal won three NBA titles in eight seasons with the Lakers, averaging 27.0 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.49 blocked shots. He still ranks among franchise leaders in points (7th/13,895), rebounds (5th/6,090), blocks (2nd/1,278) and FG% (2nd/.575). In Bryant and O'Neal's 10 career head-to- head meetings in which both have played, Bryant is averaging 34.4 points (313), 6.1 rebounds (61) and 4.4 assists (44) while O'Neal is averaging 18.4 points (184), 9.5 rebounds (95) and 1.30 blocks (13). In 2008-09, Phil Jackson surpassed legendary Celtics head coach Red Auerbach (9) with his 10th NBA championship as a head coach, an NBA record which he extended to 11 titles last season. Jackson surpassed Auerbach in all-time victories during the 2007-08 season and in games coached during the 2008-09 season. Losing to the Celtics in six games during the 2008 NBA Finals, the Lakers defeated the Celtics in the 2010 NBA Finals in what was the two teams' 12th NBA Finals meeting dating back to Minneapolis in 1959. The Lakers are 3-9 in NBA Finals series against Boston, with the Celtics taking the first eight before Los Angeles won three of the last four in 1985, 1987 and 2010.

BRYANT MOVES PAST HAKEEM OLAJUWON FOR 8th ON THE NBA'S ALL-TIME SCORING LIST
With a fast break dunk at the 3:29 mark of the first quarter 1/28 vs. Sacramento, Kobe Bryant moved past Hakeem Olajuwon (26,946) for 8th on the NBA's all-time scoring list. Earlier this month, Bryant moved past Oscar Robertson (26,710) 1/7 vs. New Orleans and Dominique Wilkins (26,668) 1/4 vs. Detroit on the all-time list. Should he continue to score anywhere near his current pace (25.1 ppg), Bryant (26,972) would move to 6th on the all-time list by season's end. Next on the all-time list ahead of Bryant are Elvin Hayes (7th/27,313) and Moses Malone (6th/27,409). Among the top nine scorers in NBA history, more than half (5) have worn the Lakers uniform (1st/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, 2nd/Karl Malone, 4th/Wilt Chamberlain, 5th/Shaquille O'Neal and 8th/Bryant).

Bryant has been steadily moving up the list over the past few years. Earlier this season, with 23 points at Chicago (12/10/10), he passed John Havlicek (26,395) for 11th. Last season, he passed Alex English (25,613), Reggie Miller (25,279), Jerry West (25,192), Patrick Ewing (24,815) and Allen Iverson (24,368). In passing West with a slam dunk at the 4:14 mark of the third quarter February 1, 2010 at Memphis, finishing the game with 44 points (West's retired number), Bryant became the leading scorer in Lakers franchise history. In 2008-09, Bryant passed Gary Payton (21,813) and Hall-of-Famers Charles Barkley (23,757), Robert Parish (23,334), Adrian Dantley (23,177), Elgin Baylor (23,149), Clyde Drexler (22,195) and Larry Bird (21,791).

BRYANT APPROACHING 27,000 CAREER POINTS
With 38 points January 28th vs. Sacramento, Kobe Bryant moved to within 28 points of 27,000 for his career. Bryant, the youngest player in league history to score 23,000 – 26,000 points, will be 31 years, 160 days old on Sunday, January 30 when the Lakers face Boston. Wilt Chamberlain, currently the youngest player to score 27,000 points in league history, reached the milestone back on March 11, 1969 when he was 32 years, 202 days of age. Michael Jordan, the only guard in NBA history to score 27,000 points, reached the milestone November 5, 1997 when he was 34 years, 261 days of age. Additionally, in reaching 27,000 points, Bryant (1,068 games played) would become just the 8th player in NBA history to do so and should he achieve the mark by the end of February, the 5th fastest to do so in terms of games. Chamberlain was the fastest to reach 27,000, doing so in 780 games, followed by Jordan (852), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (965), Karl Malone (1,035) and Shaquille O'Neal (1,083).

Earlier this season, with his 17th point November 11th at Denver, Bryant reached 26,000 for his career. In doing so, he became the youngest to do so in NBA history (32 years, 80 days), surpassing Wilt Chamberlain (32 years, 114 days) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (33 years, 331 days). Additionally, Bryant became the 12th player in NBA history to score 26,000 points and the 8th fastest to do so (1,030) in terms of games, behind Shaquille O'Neal (1,022). Wilt Chamberlain was the fastest to reach 26,000, doing so in 734 games. Among the remaining top five scorers in NBA history (Chamberlain and O'Neal already mentioned), Michael Jordan reached 26,000 points in 815 games, Abdul-Jabbar in 925 games and Karl Malone in 997 games.

The youngest player in league history to accumulate 17,000 – 20,000 and 23,000 – 26,000 points, Bryant was the 20th fastest to 17,000, 16th fastest to 18,000, 15th fastest to 19,000, 15th fastest to 20,000, 12th fastest to 21,000, 12th fastest to 22,000, 11th fastest to 23,000, 9th fastest to 24,000, 9th fastest to 25,000 and 8th fastest to 26,000 points in terms of games.

KOBE BRYANT IS TOP VOTE GETTER IN 2011 NBA ALL-STAR BALLOTING PRESENTED BY T-MOBILE
On January 27th, the NBA announced that Kobe Bryant is this year's leading vote-getter in the All-Star Balloting program presented by T-Mobile with 2,380,016 votes. It is the second time Bryant, who was the youngest All-Star in NBA history in 1998, has led all players in NBA All-Star balloting (2003) as well as his 13th consecutive All-Star selection; only Jerry West, Karl Malone and Shaquille O'Neal have more been selected more times consecutively (14 times each). In league history, only Kareem Abdul- Jabbar (19), O'Neal (15), Michael Jordan (14), Malone (14) and West (14) have more NBA All-Star selections. Pau Gasol (1,100,772), who made his third All-Star team last season as a reserve (2006, 2009, 2010) and in 2009 became the 27th Laker in franchise history to be named to an All-Star team, finished 3rd among forwards in the West behind Kevin Durant (1,736,728) and Carmelo Anthony (1,299,849). Andrew Bynum (974,546) finished 2nd among West centers behind Yao Ming (1,146,426) while Chris Paul (1,281,591) will start at guard alongside Bryant in the West. Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, the second leading vote-getter overall with 2,099,204, led the Eastern Conference in balloting. Starting alongside Howard in the East are LeBron James (2,053,011) and Amar'e Stoudemire (1,674,995) at forward and Dwyane Wade (2,048,175) and Derrick Rose (1,914,996) in the backcourt.

With the 2011 results in, Bryant has now led the Western Conference in all-star balloting in each of the last four seasons. Last season, Bryant received 2,456,224 votes, finishing second overall to Cleveland's LeBron James (2,549,693). In 2008-09, he accumulated 2,805,397 votes, finishing third in overall balloting behind Dwight Howard (3,150,181) and James (2,940,823). In 2007-08, Bryant garnered 2,004,940 votes to finish fourth in overall voting behind Kevin Garnett (2,399,148), James (2,108,831) and Howard (2,066,991). In 2006-07, when he earned his second All-Star MVP, Bryant finished third overall in balloting behind James and Yao Ming. A three-time All-Star MVP (2002 Philadelphia, 2007 Las Vegas, 2009 Phoenix), Bryant is now a 13-time All-Star. He had started 11 consecutive All-Star games before missing last year's contest due to a sprained left ankle.

30 WINS AT THE MID-POINT
With a 100-88 victory over the New Jersey Nets on January 14th, the Lakers improved to 30-11 on the season, marking the third consecutive year that they have reached the mid-point of their season with 30 or more wins. Last season, the Lakers held a 32-9 record at the halfway point after starting the 2008-09 season with a 33-8 mark. Over the past 10 seasons, the Sacramento Kings from 2001-04 are the only other NBA team to hit the mid-point with at least 30 wins in three consecutive seasons. Since the NBA went to an 82-game schedule prior to the 1967-68 season, the Lakers have now posted at least 30 wins by the mid-point 14 times, having also put together one additional three season streak from 1985-88.*

DEREK FISHER AMONG PLAYERS ELIGIBLE FOR FAN VOTE IN 2011 TACO BELL SKILLS CHALLENGE

On January 27th, the NBA announced that for the first time, the league and Taco Bell are giving fans the opportunity to determine participants in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge as part of the "Choose Your Squad" program. In addition to adding a fan vote, the 2011 Taco Bell Skills Challenge will feature an expanded field from four to five participants. Beginning today and running through 11:59 p.m. ET on Feb. 14, fans can log on to NBA.com/chooseyoursquad to choose from among eight players to determine four of the five participants in the 2011 event in Los Angeles. The players taking part in the vote include: Stephen Curry, Baron Davis, Tyreke Evans, Derek Fisher, Tony Parker, Derrick Rose, John Wall and Russell Westbrook. The four finalists will compete against "Choose Your Squad" spokesman Chris Paul.

The event includes a new charitable twist from NBA Cares & Taco Bell Foundation for Teens' "Graduate to Go" program, a national initiative helping teens graduate from high school through real-world experiences. Each of the five participants will be matched with a teen member of a local Boys & Girls Club. The teen paired with the event winner will receive a 4-year college scholarship. The other scholarship winners each receive an educational scholarship courtesy of the Taco Bell Foundation for Teens.

Introduced at NBA All-Star 2003 in Atlanta – the Taco Bell® Skills Challenge will feature five players competing in a two-round timed "obstacle course" consisting of dribbling, passing, and shooting stations. All players must observe basic NBA ball-handling rules while completing the course. The two players with the fastest times from the first round advance to the finals with the order of competition determined by inverse order of the first-round times. The Taco Bell Skills Challenge will be televised live nationally as part of the NBA All-Star Saturday Night presented by State Farm, which will also feature the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, Haier Shooting Stars, and Sprite Slam Dunk. TNT and ESPN Radio's national coverage will begin at 8 p.m. EST from STAPLES Center in Los Angeles.








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