The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics by a final score of 97-94 in a contest that was tight throughout the 2nd half. Strong play from Andrew Bynum throughout, and Kobe Bryant in the 4th quarter, was enough to escape with victory, but the Lakers should probably have had an easier time with it if not for the now predictable collapse after building up a big 1st quarter lead.
Boston and Los Angeles both rely heavily on their starting lineups, and that was evidenced by the Lakers bench outscoring the C's bench by the amazing score of 15-11. I don't have the stats to back it up, but that is probably one of the lowest combined bench outputs to have happened in a game all season. With the game up to the starters to decide, the Lakers were able to beat the Celtics with a balanced attack that had just a little more engine power at the top. Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 26, and Andrew Bynum continued his fine run of form with 20 points and 14 boards as well. But strong contributions from Metta World Peace (14 points, 3-5 shooting from 3 pt range) and Derek Fisher (9 points on 5 shots) afforded the Lakers the ability to handle the Celtics balanced attack. All 5 Boston starters scored 13 or more points, but it wasn't enough to outlast Kobe and friends.
Speaking of Kobe, he had another one of those games that gives fodder to all the elements of the debate surrounding his worth as a player. In the first half, he missed shots and turned the ball over quite a bit, and played a major role in allowing the Celtics to cut a double digit 1st quarter lead down to two at the end of the half. The second half started more of the same, but Kobe hit two big back to back threes in the middle of the 4th, going 4-6 for 10 points and dishing out a vital assist in the final two minutes. Of course, he got that assist because Andrew Bynum made a spectacular play in converting the alley oop lob from under the backboard, but the willingness to make the pass instead of forcing a difficult shot is important.
Meanwhile, the Laker difficulties with turnovers and relaxing after strong starts continue, but unlike in those pesky road contests, L.A. was able to recover before the game got out of hand. And the scare of seeing Andrew Bynum limp to the locker room (with a reported bruised right knee) was mitigated by the strength of Bynum's 2nd half play. So the Lakers have swept the Celtics on the season series, and are now tied for the best home record in the association. Not too shabby for a team that's had to call two team meetings in the six weeks.