NBA

Celtics crush Lakers, win 6th straight

Image: Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (© Greg M. Cooper/USA Today Sports)
Dwight Howard finishes with nine points and nine rebounds before fouling out.
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BOSTON (AP)

The rivalry between the Celtics and Lakers keeps rolling even if they no longer dominate the NBA.

And that brought some extra satisfaction to Boston's Paul Pierce after he led a 116-95 rout of Los Angeles with 24 points on Thursday night.

''It always feels good when you can give them a little old-fashioned beatdown in your house, no matter what direction these teams are going,'' he said. ''It'll always be a rivalry. Everybody's always going to watch.''

It was even more special, and perhaps surprising, that the win gave the Celtics a 6-0 record since losing point guard Rajon Rondo for the season with a torn knee ligament.

''We're in a rhythm. We're moving the ball,'' said Kevin Garnett, who had 15 points and became the 16th player in NBA history to reach the 25,000-point mark. ''Some day when I'm rocking in a rocking chair having a cigar and thinking what I've done I'm sure it'll make some sense to me, (but) the first priority was the Lakers.''

The teams have met a record 12 times in the NBA Finals, the last in 2010 when the Lakers won in seven games. Only four players on those teams were active Thursday - Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace for Los Angeles and Pierce and Garnett for Boston. Pau Gasol and Rondo also played in that series but missed Thursday's game.

In 2008, the Celtics beat the Lakers in six games for the championship.

''You can feel the energy every time the Lakers come into the building,'' Pierce said. ''There's always a little extra mustard you're going to try to put out there when this type of setting is set up for you.''

The Lakers played with Dwight Howard after he missed three games with a sore right shoulder but without Gasol, who is out indefinitely with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot.

Bryant scored 27 to lead the Lakers, who had won their previous three games but suffered their worst loss of the season. Howard had nine points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes before fouling out with 5:07 left.

''There were a couple times where I felt (the shoulder pain),'' he said, ''but I just tried not to think about it. ''

World Peace also was back after a one-game suspension for grabbing Detroit's Brandon Knight around the neck and striking him in the jaw with the knuckles of his mostly open hand in the Lakers' 98-97 win Sunday.

The Lakers cut a 58-44 halftime deficit to 72-61 with 5:07 left in the third quarter. Then the Celtics went on a 23-8 run and led 95-69 going into the fourth. Pierce started the surge with a three-point play and ended it with a 3-pointer with 41 seconds left, giving him 12 points in the period.

''The first half was just as bad as the second,'' said Lakers point guard Steve Nash, who had just nine points and five assists. ''Disappointing performance, start to finish.''

The win was the Celtics' biggest of the season and broke a tie with Milwaukee for seventh place in the East. They moved within 1 1/2 games of sixth.

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''The roof just kind of caved in on us,'' Bryant said. ''It always just seems like whenever their backs are against the wall you know that's when you really see the best from them.''

The Lakers had won six of their previous seven games and had moved three games behind the Houston Rockets for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

But they trailed by at least 11 points throughout the second half.

Previously, the Celtics' biggest win was 94-75 at Indiana on Jan. 4, and the Lakers' worst loss was 113-97 at Sacramento on Nov. 21.

Garnett reached 25,000 points with an 11-foot turnaround jumper that gave him six for the game and put the Celtics ahead 39-29 with 8:08 left in the half. Jeff Green had 19 points and Jason Terry added 15.

Besides Rondo, rookie forward Jared Sullinger also is out for the season after having back surgery and sat out his fourth game.

''Our guys just think they're good,'' Boston coach Doc Rivers said. ''We're playing selfless and free.''

The Celtics led by 14 at halftime after hitting 51.1 percent of their shots while the Lakers kept missing open jumpers and sank just 37.8 percent of theirs, including just 2 of 12 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Los Angeles' last lead, 11-10, came on a 12-foot turnaround fadeaway by Bryant with 6:38 left in the first quarter.

Boston led 27-23 going into the second and built it to 55-40 when Garnett drew two defenders to him under the basket and passed to Chris Wilcox for a dunk with 2:35 left.

Boston took its biggest lead of the half, 58-42 on two free throws by Pierce with 37 seconds to go.

Notes: The Celtics play at home Sunday for the sixth time in seven games when they meet the Denver Nuggets. ... The Lakers are 3-2 on their seven-game road trip, which continues Friday night in Charlotte and ends Sunday in Miami. ... Six Celtics scored in double figures, the fifth straight game in which they had at least five.

Tagged: Celtics, Lakers, Paul Pierce, Metta World Peace, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Rajon Rondo

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