The Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics 92-83 to end the NBA champions' franchise-best 19-game winning streak on Thursday. 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 sides 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 said. "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 hit back.
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 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 half-time that you're one of the best players in the world, and to go out there and play like it."
Boston had picked up where they left off last season, compiling a league-best record and the franchise's best start. The Western Conference-leading Lakers, however, have been boosted by the return of centre Andrew Bynum, who missed the second half of last season with a knee injury and his inside presence helped against the physical Celtics. Bynum finished with nine points and seven rebounds while Sasha Vujacic and Lamar Odom both scored 10 points off the bench for Los Angeles.
"I don't want to hear their name whatsoever," Vujacic said of the Celtics. "I just want to play against them. I'm speaking in the name of all the Lakers' fans. We dislike them more than anything." Elsewhere in NBA action on Thursday, Roger Mason hit a three-pointer as time expired to give the San Antonio Spurs a thrilling 91-90 triumph over the Phoenix Suns. Tony Parker scored 27 points and Tim Duncan had 25 and 17 rebounds to lead San Antonio, who won their fourth straight game, while Amare Stoudemire had 25 points and 13 rebounds and Shaquille O'Neal added 23 and 12 for Phoenix.
Hedo Turkoglu led five players in double figures with 20 points as the Orlando Magic cruised an 88-68 victory over the New Orleans Hornets. Dirk Nowitzki scored 30 points to lead the Dallas Mavericks to a 102-94 defeat of the Portland Trail Blazers. Mo Williams scored 24 points and LeBron James added 18 as the Cleveland Cavaliers used a late rally to beat the Washington Wizards 93-89. Cleveland, who improved to 15-0 at home this season, trailed by seven with 1:39 left before scoring the final 11 points of the contest.