Final - OT
  for this game

Lakers win thriller, sweep season series with Celtics

Feb 6, 2009 - 5:57 AM BOSTON (Ticker) -- The Los Angeles Lakers put the NBA on notice Thursday - don't try to intimidate them.

Lamar Odom hit the go-ahead free throws with 16 seconds left in overtime as the Lakers swept the season series from the Boston Celtics with a 110-109 victory in an intense game that almost spiraled out of control.

"I think we showed we are a tough team," Odom said, speaking directly about Los Angeles' perceived lack of toughness in last June's NBA Finals. "I think there are teams that think they can push us around and I think we showed they can't."

Kobe Bryant had 26 points and 10 rebounds and Odom added 20 points for the Lakers (40-9), who snapped a significant winning streak for the Celtics (41-10) for the second time this season. They now own the best record in the NBA percentage-wise.

Los Angeles ended Boston's franchise-record, 19-game winning streak on Christmas Day before halting its 12-game run in this one. The triumphs earned them the tiebreaker for home-court advantage if the teams again were to meet in NBA Finals.

Those accomplishments were secondary to the Lakers' underlying message. Led by Odom, they proved that they have grown both physically and mentally this season.

"I'm proud of Lamar, in particular, because he really hadn't played, he was in foul trouble and he stuck with it," Bryant said. "He showed a lot of growth and his focus. He's able to get right back to it, putting himself back into the game and played extremely well."

Trailing, 109-108, the Lakers got a huge defensive play from Odom, who blocked a jumper by Glen Davis, grabbed the loose ball and attempted to ignite a fast break. He was fouled as he tossed the pass, setting up his clutch foul shots.

"It was nice to hit those free throws," Odom said. "I knew it was a tight game, and we needed them."

On the ensuing possession - the final one of the game - Rajon Rondo accidentally was undercut by Derek Fisher, who fell to the floor in the path of the Celtics' point guard.

The gaffe allowed Boston to set up a sideline out-of-bounds play, saving it from a scramble. But Ray Allen's 3-pointer was partially blocked by Pau Gasol, who sent TD Banknorth Garden into an uproar after what many perceived to be a foul as time expired.

"I thought I was pushed," Allen said. "I almost twisted, I think I did twist my ankle, I thought I was fouled ... it came down to one last play, but we had opportunities, we easily had opportunities under a minute in the game. ... We just didn't execute."

Boston coach Doc Rivers was angry about the officiating throughout the game and was overheard yelling at the referees as the teams headed to the locker rooms after the game.

The closely officiated game most likely was a result of two face-to-face confrontations in the second half that had everyone on edge. Bryant and Rondo had to be separated as did Kevin Garnett and Odom.

"Listen, I thought, in the third and fourth quarter, the game got out of control," Rivers said. "I really did. And I thought the officials allowed it to get out of control. I just thought there was a lot of chippiness."

Allen scored 22 points for Boston, which played the end of the game without Garnett. The reigning Defensive Player of the Year fouled out with 4:22 left in the fourth quarter.

"That's a critical factor," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said of Garnett's disqualification. "I didn't think he was quite ready to play. He didn't look up to par but even with him up to 90 percent, he's still a guy who can make shots and do a lot of things defensively."

Bryant, who sat the first four-plus minutes of the fourth quarter for his customary rest, tried to take over the game on his own in the final minutes of regulation. He hit a contested three to tie the game at 96-96 and another shot from the arc to give the Lakers a brief 101-100 lead with 1:31 left.

With 29 seconds remaining, Pierce made 1-of-2 free throws to tie the game before Bryant missed a fadeaway with 7.7 ticks left.

Bryant made up for the poor shot selection on the final possession of regulation, when he hounded Pierce on a clear-out and poking away his dribble. The ball fell into the hands of Eddie House, whose awkward 3-pointer missed as time expired.

The Lakers have won five in a row after winning three games in four nights, starting with Bryant's 61-point performance against the New York Knicks on Monday. The outburst set the scoring record at the current Madison Square Garden.

Boston hadn't lost since January 9 at the Cleveland Cavaliers and is hoping this setback does not send it into another tailspin. Its loss at Los Angeles on Christmas Day started a 2-7 stretch.

Garnett had 16 points and six rebounds before his departure for the Celtics, who lost despite getting 30 points from their bench. They play the Knicks at MSG on Friday.

"Didn't think we played well at all for the most part, but we hung in there," Rivers said. "And I was just proud of our guys because I didn't think we played well; I didn't think we executed well at all. And yet we still had chances, we still had leads."