LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Lakers displayed the toughness they lacked last season to beat the Boston Celtics 92-83 and end the NBA champions' franchise-best 19-game winning streak on Thursday.
Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant gets a hug from teammate Sasha Vujacic as he points towards the Boston Celtics' bench after the Lakers' victory in an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, December 25, 2008. [Agencies]
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 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 told reporters. "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 answered with clutch plays.
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 power 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 halftime that you're one of the best players in the world, and to go out there and play like it."
The longest winning streaks in the NBA after the Boston Celtics 19-game run ended with defeat by the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday.
Wins Team Date
33 Los Angeles Lakers November 5 1971 - January 7 1972
22 Houston Rockets January 29 - March 18 2008
20 Milwaukee Bucks February 6 - March 9 1971
19 Boston Celtics November 15 - December 23, 2008
19 Los Angeles Lakers February 4 - March 16 2000
18 Chicago Bulls December 29 1995 - February 4 1996
18 Boston Celtics February 24 - March 28 1982
18 New York Knicks October 24 - November 29 1969
17 Dallas Mavericks January 27 - March 12 2007
17 Phoenix Suns December 29 2006 - January 29 2007
17 San Antonio Spurs February 29 - April 2 1996
17 Boston Celtics November 28 1959 - January 1 1960
17 Washington Capitals November 16 1946 - January 1 1947