for this game

Pierce, Celtics cruise to another road win

Dec 31, 2007 - 7:14 AM By John Reger PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) -- Paul Pierce scored 33 points, including four 3-pointers, as the Boston Celtics won their sixth consecutive game, 110-91, over the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Sunday.

It was the eighth consecutive road victory for the Celtics (26-3), who have now won 15 of their last 16 games and have the best record in the NBA.

Boston also swept its current four-game West Coast trip in what was considered the first tough stretch for the revamped squad.

"That was our goal for this road trip, 4-0," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "We rarely talk about more than one game, but before we left, I said let's try and go 4-0. This was great. After (Saturday's game vs. Utah), to come back with the energy we did, I was really concerned about that."

The loss snapped the Lakers' four-game winning streak and was the second time this season they have lost to the Celtics in one of the NBA's classic rivalries.

"They're one of the elite teams," Los Angeles superstar Kobe Bryant said. "They're at the next level. They're at the level we're trying to get to, and the challenge is there for us."

The Lakers fared no better in this game than they did on November 23, which was the last meeting between the clubs - a 104-97 victory by the Celtics.

Los Angeles scored the opening basket, but it would be the last time it would have the lead.

Boston led by as many as 17 points in the first half and shot 46 percent from the field, while limiting the Lakers to 32 percent shooting.

Bryant scored 22 points but struggled from the field, especially in the first half - shooting 3-of-15, including 0-of-3 from the arc before halftime, en route to a 6-of-25 shooting performance overall.

The game was a physical one littered with fouls, including six technicals in the first half - four in the first quarter alone.

"Guys are going to come out and try and talk us out of our games," Pierce said. "We've had hard fouls and, if we haven't felt it, we did on this road trip. We know we have a big red target on our back and everybody wants to beat the Celtics.

"We have the best record in the league and we have to be ready mentally and not get caught up in those little games."

Celtics forward Kevin Garnett, who collected 22 points and 12 rebounds, was cut above the right eye with 3:20 remaining in the second quarter and had to leave the game briefly. He returned with 2:16 left before halftime with four stitches and a bandage.

With Boston holding a commanding lead in the final minutes of the game, the game got even more chippy. Lakers forward Lamar Odom shouldered Celtics guard Ray Allen into Boston's bench as he was attempting a shot.

Odom was called for a foul and Allen a technical after the incident, which had to be diffused by referees.

"I don't know what Odom was thinking," Allen said. "I got the rebound, and he tackled me. I know this is Sunday, but this is the wrong field. I didn't think I was going to be tackled on the crowd."

In the third quarter, the Lakers got as close as six after a 3-pointer by Derek Fisher with 3:17 remaining. Bryant got his fourth foul with 2:26 left in the third quarter and had to sit out the rest of the period.

Boston went on an 8-0 run to extend its lead to 16 points at the end of the third. To make matters worse, the Lakers had turnovers on five consecutive possessions from the end of the third quarter to the beginning of the fourth.

Allen, who finished with 19 points, scored Boston's first seven points to open the fourth quarter en route to an 11-3 run to build the lead to 23 points.

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