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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.
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