BOSTON -- Before anything else, a quick step into the deep history between these two teams, to June 2010. Derek Fisher drives the length of the court, into the chests of three Boston Celtics defenders, shoots a layup high off the top of the backboard and watches it fall through the hoop as he tumbles to the floor. He is fouled. There are 48 seconds left in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, and Fisher's 3-point play preserves the Lakers first win in a series they will win in seven games.
That is Lakers-Celtics. And it is Kobe Bryant's favorite moment of many at TD Garden.
"That was a pressure cooker right there," Bryant said Friday.
But in the latest edition of basketball's best rivalry, there were no high stakes, no Bryant and few of his old rivals remained. Just Rajon Rondo, who made his season debut after tearing his ACL last January.
Rookie Ryan Kelly didn't have a favorite moment. He had never played at the Garden. Before Friday.
The 48th pick in last summer's draft, Kelly announced himself in the NBA's best rivalry -- albeit a watered-down version, between two teams whose combined win totals (29) pale compared to combined championships (33) as he served an unlikely hero to help the Lakers to a 107-104 win, bringing temporary relief to one of the darkest stretches in franchise history.
"It was an incredible experience for me," said Kelly, who scored 20 points, 12 in the fourth quarter. "That's the type of player I know I am."
Playing without leading scorer Nick Young because of a one-game suspension, the Lakers (15-25) were led by Pau Gasol's 24 points, 13 rebounds and 6 assists, but it was Kelly who emerged the hero. In addition to his offensive burst, Kelly grabbed a critical rebound with 24 seconds remaining and made two free throws with 9.4 seconds left to help seal the win in second game of the season's longest trip. And it helped that it came against the Celtics (14-27).
"Even though the teams have changed quite a bit," Gasol said. "It's still great to come in and beat this team here, especially with the losing streak we had going."
The win was the Lakers' first since Jan. 3, snapping their second-straight six game losing streak. And while victories have been scarce, Friday's was emblematic of how the Lakers have managed to get through an excruciating period without Bryant and a supporting cast of injured players.
The Lakers closed the game on an 11-0 run, including a 3-pointer by Kendall Marshall, who finished with 19 points and 14 assists -- a performance offset only by 7 turnovers.
Bryant said Friday his broken tibial plateau in his left knee, which has limited him to six games this season, will be reexamined in early February and that he hopes to play soon after that. He disregarded a suggestion from Lakers legend Magic Johnson, as reported Wednesday by the Los Angeles Times, that he should sit out for the rest of the season to get fully healthy.
"The only thing I can afford to consider is getting better, getting stronger," Bryant said. "I can't allow myself to think any other way. ... To do anything else becomes distracting."
The Lakers found themselves on the right side of a final-minute controversy, when referees reviewing an out of bounds play couldn't determine whether the ball had been last touched by Wesley Johnson or Boston's Gerald Wallace.
Unsure, they opted for a jump ball. Adding to the confusion? The previous play had been a jump ball.
With 16.2 seconds left, Wallace wrapped up Johnson on the perimeter, leading to the tossup play. Johnson outreached Wallace and swatted the ball out of bounds, but video replay showed it might have grazed Wallace's fingertips, as well.
"I hit it kind of hard," Johnson said. "I knew he had his hand on it, too, but the majority of my hand was on the ball so it was tough for them to see."
After a lengthy review, the befuddled team of officials had no choice but to re-jump, sending the 18,624 into a frenzy. This time Johnson cleanly knocked the ball to Kelly, who was fouled and made both free throws with 9.6 seconds left.
Young misses game
Already minus five players with injuries, the Lakers won without Young and his team-best 16.4 points per game. He remained at the team hotel, serving the suspension stemming from his altercation in Phoenix on Wednesday.
After the loss to the Suns, Young criticized his teammates for not coming into break up the fracas, an issue he said he addressed with his teammates.
"I think we all know what to do now in situations like that," he said.
On Friday, in a third-quarter dust-up between Wallace and Jodie Meeks, Marshall led a group of Lakers into the fray to help break it up.
"They didn't react quite right (in Phoenix)," D'Antoni said. "Tonight they reacted."
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