LOS ANGELES -- Kobe Bryant scored 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and hit a go-ahead jumper with 41.7 seconds to play, leading the Los Angeles Lakers to a 97-94 victory over the Boston Celtics on Sunday.
Andrew Bynum had 20 points and 14 rebounds for the Lakers, who rallied from a five-point deficit in the final 2 1/2 minutes. The All-Star center hit a short hook shot over Kevin Garnett with 15.5 seconds left, and Boston couldn't get a good look at a tying 3-pointer.
The Lakers scored the final eight points in their 18th victory in 19 home games, stylishly finishing their third straight victory over Boston in yet another thrilling meeting of the NBA's most storied rivalry.
Rajon Rondo had 24 points and 10 assists for the Celtics, who opened an eight-game road trip by blowing a late lead. On Boston's final possession, Ray Allen failed to get free for a 3-pointer before Rondo badly missed a desperate tying attempt.
Boston erased an early 15-point deficit before clinging to a small lead down the stretch. Allen's 3-pointer put the Celtics up 94-89 with 2:41 left, but Los Angeles trimmed the lead to one point on baskets from Bryant and Bynum before Bryant nailed his 14-footer to put the Lakers ahead.
Allen finished with 17 points for the Celtics, while Brandon Bass had 15 before missing a go-ahead jumper in the final minute. Paul Pierce had 13 points on 4-for-14 shooting and nine assists, while Garnett had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
The game might have been one of the final meetings for the current veteran cores of the franchises that met in the NBA finals in 2008 and 2010, adding new chapters to the NBA's most storied rivalry. The matchup still means something special to both teams – including Bynum, who said the Lakers would "go at their heads" in this matchup.
Metta World Peace scored 14 points for Los Angeles, which has won 10 of 14 overall. Pau Gasol had 13 points and 13 rebounds, including two key boards in the final seconds.
Rondo, the Celtics' three-time All-Star point guard, and four-time All-Star big man Gasol have attempted to keep their focus on their current teams instead of their prospective future employers. They'll know their fates by the trade deadline later this week.
The Lakers returned to California for a single home game in a stretch with five of six on the road. Ugly losses at Detroit and Washington last week worried fans who believe a major restructuring is the only way to turn the Western Conference's fourth-place team into a title contender, but Bryant has repeatedly discounted the Lakers' road woes, blaming them on the shortened season and the new coaching system.
The Lakers led 37-22 before Boston got rolling midway through the second quarter, closing the first half on a 20-7 run capped by Rondo's buzzer-beating 3-pointer. Bryant went 4 for 11 and committed four of the Lakers' 11 turnovers in the first half, also picking up another technical foul.
Boston took its first lead early in the third quarter, but World Peace led the Lakers back after getting into a brief scuffle with Pierce and Garnett under the basket. World Peace responded with 10 points in less than 3 minutes for Los Angeles' streakiest player, capped by a steal and a length-of-the-court drive for a dunk on Pierce.
Notes: Boston swingman Mickael Pietrus played despite a sore knee, scoring five points. ... Boston will be back at Staples Center on Monday to face the Clippers. ... World Peace is the Lakers' worst shooter at just 35 percent, but the erstwhile Ron Artest gets up for big games, scoring 17 points against Miami a week ago. ... Fans near courtside included Patriots QB Tom Brady, Adam Levine, Seal, Maria Menounos and David Beckham.