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Lakers beat Celtics, exorcise Boston demons

by Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for He can be reached at [email protected] or check out his blog, Good 'N Plenty.

BOSTON - When Kobe Bryant and his teammates arrived in Boston early Thursday morning, they walked into the identical hotel as the one they occupied last June before Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

"I couldn't sleep," Bryant said. "I stayed up until five or six in the morning thinking about the game."

"All the memories of losing here last year came back," added Lakers forward Luke Walton.

The Los Angeles Lakers had something to prove in Boston on Thursday night. They were annihilated a year ago by 39 points in the series-clinching game.

Blown out of the building.

It was so bad that their manhood was questioned. So bad they couldn't get the taste out of their mouths. Didn't want to get the taste out of their mouths.

"We had something to prove to ourselves," Bryant said. "This was a statement game for us."

Without their emerging big man, Andrew Bynum, the Lakers walked out of the new Boston Garden late Thursday night with smiles from ear-to-ear and their heads held high after a 110-109 overtime victory against the defending world champs.

"I won't lie to you," Walton said. "This one was big. It was real big. We all remember what it felt like and while this still doesn't make it for it, it's still nice."

It was important for a multitude of reasons — none more so than for their overall psyche and in particular, Pau Gasol's.

Gasol was considered the ultimate softie a year ago after he was pushed around and manhandled in the series by Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins.

This time Gasol responded with 24 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.

"He answered the call. He answered the bell," Bryant said. "Last year in the Finals he was a bit shell-shocked."

The win gave the Lakers a sweep of the season series.

The Christmas Day win in Los Angeles put the Celtics' 19-game winning streak to bed. It also started a Boston slide that had many wondering whether the C's were still the favorites to repeat.

This one snapped a 12-game winning streak.

"I'm not going to make too much of it," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.

Jackson was fully aware that Garnett wasn't himself after missing the last two games with the flu. He still managed 16 points and eight rebounds in 33 minutes, but fouled out with 4:22 left in regulation.

"I didn't think he was quite ready to play," Jackson said of Garnett. "He didn't look up to par."

After Bryant made a huge 3-pointer with 1:30 left to give the Lakers a 101-100 lead, Boston's Paul Pierce — the star of last year's series — missed one of two free throws which forced overtime.

Late in regulation and in the extra frame, Celtics second-year reserve Glen Davis found himself taking the big shots after the Lakers focused on making certain Pierce and Ray Allen weren't going to beat them.

"That would have been Garnett," Walton said.

The Lakers have now won nine of their last 10, but this victory was more meaningful not just because it came against Boston. Los Angeles also had four guys in double-figures and got significant contributions off the bench.

The Celtics were obviously not the same team with Garnett out of the game down the stretch. While the Lakers gained a confidence boost with a second win against Boston, it didn't seem to alter the Celtics' thought process.

"It's not the end of the world," Pierce said. "It's still a long season. Our goals are still the same, nothing changes."

Maybe not on the Celtics end, but the other side was singing a different tune.

"Is it cathartic?" Bryant was asked after the game.

"I didn't go to college," he smiled. "I don't know what cathartic means."

Cleansing, Kobe. It means cleansing.

"It was a big test," he said. "A barometer."

Garnett didn't quite see it the same way. He just wants another shot at the Lakers.

"Hell, yeah," Garnett said. "We're the champs, right?"

True, but this isn't the same Lakers team.

Not any more.

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Lakers trade with Bobcats: CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - The Charlotte Bobcats traded managing partner Michael Jordan's first draft pick on Saturday, sending struggling forward Adam Morrison and reserve guard Shannon Brown to the Los Angeles Lakers for forward Vladimir Radmanovic.

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Lakers hand Cavaliers first home loss of season

Kobe Bryant was sick. The Cleveland Cavaliers just looked it. With Bryant suffering from the flu, Lamar Odom scored a season-high 28 points - 15 in the third quarter- and Pau Gasol scored 18 as the streak-busting Los Angeles Lakers dominated the second half and handed Cleveland its first home loss this season, 101-91 on Sunday to complete a 6-0 road trip. Bryant was not himself. The superstar vomited before the game, shivered with chills throughout and needed intravenous fluids at halftime.

From here Fox Sports here:

FOX Sports on MSN - NBA - GameTrax

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