After exacting NBA Finals revenge against the Celtics in 2010, Kobe Bryant has softened on Boston, and for the first time since the infamous 2007 “MVP” chants, the city returned the sentiment, offering a standing ovation during the starting lineup role call before playfully booing him on his first few possessions.
It was exactly the sort of reaction Boston reserves for its most worthy adversaries – Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and, yes, Bryant, a five-time NBA champion and one of the greatest players ever to play the game of basketball.
The Boston brass presented Bryant with a piece of the parquet before his final game in the Garden, and then the Celtics gave him more ground on the floor, as the 17-time All-Star sunk a 28-foot dagger of a 3-pointer with 1:40 remaining in a 112-104 victory.
Bryant finished with a double-double (15 points, 11 rebounds) in 33 minutes, as the Lakers won for just the sixth time all season. Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 24 points and seven assists. Evan Turner (20 points, 8 assists), Jae Crowder (17 points) and Avery Bradley (13 points) also reached double figures for the Celtics, who fell to 18-14 and had their four-game winning streak snapped.
Marcus Smart was benched for the first quarter after missing the team’s walk-through due to a flat tire, Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters after the game. Smart scored four points in 11 minutes.
For a complete box score, click here. To go beyond the box, read on.
STUD OF THE NIGHT: Evan Turner.
If not for Turner, the Celtics would never have made this a contest. When they trailed by a dozen and lost on offense in the fourth quarter, Turner repeatedly drove to the basket, breathing life into the fading green. He scored 13 of the C’s first 16 points in the final frame and assisted on the team’s only other field goal – a David Lee layup — in that span, as they climbed back into an otherwise ugly game.
DUD OF THE NIGHT: Amir Johnson.
Johnson played 18 minutes and scored all of zero points. In fact, outside of his five defensive rebounds and one turnover, he put up zeroes across the board. And while he helped hold Roy Hibbert scoreless on the defensive end, the Celtics could have used some scoring from their starting big man. In the third quarter, he was replaced in the starting lineup by Kelly Olynyk, who also had a tough night (5 points).
VINE OF THE NIGHT:
WHINE OF THE NIGHT: “Ko-be Bry-ant” chants.
Prior to the game, I thought it might be poignant for Celtics fans to offer Bryant a few mock “MVP” chants during the game ‘ maybe on an errant 3-pointer ‘ but that’s when I figured the C’s would run away with this one. Then, the Lakers took a double-digit lead and Bryant hit that dagger 3, and then the “Ko-be Bry-ant” chants that rained from the rafters were a terrible idea. Whether or not those came from the large contingent of L.A. faithful, Celtics fans should’ve figured out a way to drown those out.
NOTE OF THE NIGHT: Oh, shoot.
Bryant’s worst shooting game against the Celtics? His first in Boston. In 20 minutes off the bench on Nov. 27, 1996, he finished 1-for-7 from the floor (14.3 percent) in a 110-94 at the Garden. In his final game in Boston, he seemed destined for an even worse evening, starting 2-of-12 from the field, but he salvaged a 5-for-18 effort ‘ tied for the sixth-worst shooting effort of his career against the Celtics.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “This place is always special to me.”
“I grew up a really big historian of the game and understanding Boston’s history, the players, many different players, championships won, and so this place is always special to me,” Bryant said of his final visit to the hub as a player. “The history I think is what makes this city different than all the rest.”
STAT OF THE NIGHT: 9-6-3.
It’s the sort of stat line Brandon Bass put up all too often on the Celtics ‘ nine points, six rebounds and three assists in 24:29 ‘ and this time it helped the Lakers. Overshadowed by Bryant’s return, Bass made his first trip back to Boston after four seasons on the Celtics, and he helped anchor a 52-45 rebounding advantage for L.A. He also played center for the Lakers down the stretch. Silent assassin.
@ OF THE NIGHT: