BOSTON (AFP) – Tyler Zeller’s 24 points helped lift Boston to a 113-96 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday in a battle of storied NBA rivals fallen on hard times.
Zeller connected on 10 of 11 shots from the floor and grabbed 14 rebounds for the Celtics, who had 19 points from Jeff Green as they notched a second straight victory in the wake of a five-game skid.
Jared Sullinger delivered 17 points and 13 rebounds, Avery Bradley chipped in 16 points and Rajon Rondo scored 12 points and handed out 16 assists.
Kobe Bryant ended with 22 points for the Lakers, who have dropped two straight.
The Lakers and Celtics have met 12 times in the NBA finals over the years, and Celtics coach Brad Stevens said their history made any game between them special.
“It is unique to think you’re driving downtown to play the Lakers,” he said.
But Boston and Los Angeles went into the contest with a combined 10 wins this season, and Bryant’s breakfast with Rondo on Thursday excited as much comment as the game itself.
Bryant insisted it was just a social meeting of friends and colleagues, and not an attempt to try to talk up the Lakers to the 28-year-old Rondo, who will be a free agent next July.
Although Bryant has been vocal in his praise of Rondo, he said their conversation on Thursday was of the “basketball geek” variety, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“We get along extremely well,” Bryant said. “We see the game in a similar fashion in terms of our aggressiveness and mindset. It was good to get together with him.”
The Celtics seized an early advantage, taking a 30-20 lead after one quarter.
Los Angeles pulled within three several times in the second period, but the Celtics responded each time and put the game away with a dominant third quarter, in which they out-scored the Lakers 33-22.
Los Angeles never got closer than nine in the fourth and while Bryant’s points total led the Lakers, he needed 21 shot attempts, connecting on just nine of them.