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Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010

Kobe works magic late against Celtics

BOSTON (AP) The Los Angeles Lakers are doing their best to forget all those awful memories of playing in the Boston Garden.

Kobe Bryant sank the go-ahead basket with 7.3 seconds left, and the Lakers won 90-89 on Sunday for their third consecutive victory over the struggling Celtics. Boston has not been able to make good on the traditional "Beat L.A.!" chant since winning 131-92 to clinch the 2008 NBA championship here in Game 6 of the finals.

"They smacked us two years ago," Lakers forward Lamar Odom said. "It was a big game for us. This is a team that's going to be battling to be coming out of the East."

Winners of 32 NBA titles between them — including the last two — the Lakers and Celtics have met in the finals 11 times, from Bill Russell against Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain, to Magic Johnson vs. Larry Bird and on to the current matchup of Bryant facing the New Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

But while the Lakers' superstar came through in the stretch for them, Boston's couldn't.

The Celtics led by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter and nursed a one-point lead until Pierce was called for an offensive foul for pushing off as he jumped to shoot with 28 seconds left.

"At that point, I think it's got to be unbelievable, but I didn't see it so I really can't give an opinion on it," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "You know, I do know Kobe pushes off a lot."

Bryant complained of a stiff ankle after Friday night's win in Philadelphia, and it seemed to bother him during the game. He shot just 8 for 20 but made the big one: making a move toward the basket before stepping back from Allen's defense and swishing the ball through the net to give Los Angeles its only lead of the second half.

"He had a couple of looks before that that were good looks, and he didn't put them in. We were mystified by that," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who tied Pat Riley atop the franchise coaching list with his 533rd win in Los Angeles. "He told me the next one was going to go in, so we went with him."

Cavaliers 114, Clippers 89

In Cleveland, LeBron James scored half of the Cavaliers' 46 points in the first quarter as Cleveland equaled an NBA record with 11 3-pointers in the opening period.

Thunder 112, Warriors 104

In Oklahoma City, Kevin Durant scored a season-high 45 points to take over second place in the NBA scoring race as the Thunder beat Golden State.

Nuggets 103, Spurs 89

In San Antonio, Kenyon Martin scored 27 points as Denver won again without Carmelo Anthony.

Magic 91, Pistons 86

In Auburn Hills, Michigan, J.J. Redick scored 17 points and Dwight Howard overcame free-throw problems to put up 16 points and 14 rebounds as Orlando beat struggling Detroit.

Suns 115, Rockets 111 (OT)

In Houston, Amare Stoudemire scored a season-high 36 points and Steve Nash handed out 16 assists as Phoenix beat the Rockets in overtime.

Raptors 117, Pacers 102

In Toronto, Chris Bosh had 26 points and 15 rebounds, and Andrea Bargnani scored 17 points as the Raptors won their fifth straight game.

76ers 83, Nets 79

In East Rutherford, N.J., Andre Iguodala scored 14 points, including seven in a key portion of the third quarter, leading Philadelphia over the Nets.

Timberwolves 112, Knicks 91

In Minneapolis, Kevin Love had a career-high 25 points to go with 11 rebounds as Minnesota exacted a little payback on New York.

The Timberwolves lost by 27 points at Madison Square Garden last week.



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