The Boston Celtics had their team-record 19-game winning streak snapped by their most storied foe on Thursday night, losing 92-83 to the Los Angeles Lakers in a rematch of last year's NBA final.
The hard-fought contest was a close affair with about four minutes left to play and Boston leading by two. But that's when the Lakers took over, ending the game with a 13-2 run.
"It was fun just because of the challenge of stopping the streak," Los Angeles (24-5) forward Kobe Bryant said after the game. Bryant led all scorers with 27 points.
"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," he said.
It was Gasol who was the difference late in the game. In the last three minutes of the fourth quarter Gasol hit three clutch shots for seven points, and iced the contest with one minute left when he blocked Ray Allen's three-point attempt.
"We were pretty physical," said Gasol. "We were able to contain them, keep our poise and finish the game off. I had to make sure I took it to them, not settle for easy jumpers. I'm glad I was able to get over that hump of a slow start. It shows we can beat anybody. Hopefully, we'll build on it."
Historic win for Jackson
Aside from gaining a measure of revenge against the Celtics, who beat Los Angeles in six games to win the NBA title last season, the win was also huge for the team's head coach. It was Phil Jackson's 1,000th career victory, making him the fastest coach in NBA history to reach that mark.
"It's amazing. I mean, he's one of the greatest coaches of all time," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "I can guarantee you that I won't win 1,000 games because I won't be around that long. It's just an amazing number. When you throw up 1,000 wins, that says a lot."
Kevin Garnett led the way for Boston (27-3), putting up 22 points with a sizzling 11-for-14 effort from the floor. Paul Pierce had a double-double in a losing cause, scoring 20 points with 10 rebounds to his credit.
"There's a reason why teams are playing on this special day, so it had a playoff energy and a playoff atmosphere to it," Garnett said. "It's tough when you lose against anybody. We probably took a step back, but hats off to a good Laker team. Pau made big shots when he had to and Kobe put stress on the defence."
The atmosphere was electric in L.A.'s Staples Center for the rematch of last year's NBA finals, with fans and numerous celebrities in attendance acting like it was a playoff game instead of a mid-season tilt. It helped that both teams have picked up where they left off last season and look to be heading for a finals rematch this year; each owns the best record in its respective conference.
Boston's 19-game winning streak set a team record and is tied for the fourth-longest winning streak in NBA history. The Lakers hold that mark, winning 33 straight in 1972.
Los Angeles improved to 15-1 at home this season, but only have the third-best home record in the NBA, behind Cleveland (14-0) and Boston (17-1).