LOS ANGELES – The hype was definitely there. The Los Angeles Lakers simply weren’t.

They spent the first two months of the season collecting quality victories, one after another, but they aren’t in the caliber of the Boston Celtics, no matter how much the Lakers, their fans, and the NBA might wish otherwise.

The Lakers scored the first basket and never led again on the way to a one-sided 110-91 loss to the Celtics on Sunday night at Staples Center.

Kobe Bryant experienced a miserable shooting night, making six of 25 shots while scoring 22 points. Andrew Bynum fouled out with eight points and two rebounds in 21 minutes. The Lakers’ reserves were woefully quiet, totaling eight points into the fourth quarter, when the Celtics led by as many as 25.

The early atmosphere was more electric than any other regular-season game since Shaquille O’Neal’s return with the Miami Heat in December 2004, but the crowd was severely deflated by the time it all ended, many fans slipping away quietly during a timeout with 5:27 to play and the home team down, 98-78.

And to think the Celtics were playing their fourth game in five nights, all on the road, and went without starting point guard Rajon Rondo because of a hamstring injury.

“Well, that was a rather long, laborious night for us …” Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said.

For the Celtics, Paul Pierce had 33 points, Kevin Garnett had 22 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, and Ray Allen had 19 points. Rondo’s replacement, Tony Allen, had 16 points for the Celtics, who improved to a league-best 26-3 after winning for the 15th time in their last 16 games.

The Lakers (19-11) hit a season-low 35.4 percent of their shots. Lamar Odom had 14 points on six-for-17 shooting.

Jordan Farmar had nine points on three-for-nine shooting. Bryant never found a groove.

“They have a good defensive team,” Jackson said. “Obviously, I haven’t seen Kobe have a shooting night like that. After playing two really stellar games and shooting well, this is not a game we could put down next to those.”

Said Bryant: “I had good looks. I just missed them. You are going to have nights when you can’t put the ball in the ocean sitting on a boat. You just move on to the next one.”

The buildup was hard to avoid for this one, with NBA TV trotting out nine hours of old Lakers-Celtics footage to commemorate the day, including Game 6 of the 1987 Finals, complete with Magic Johnson’s baby sky hook.

Jerry West was the Lakers’ honorary captain for the night, which included a brief acknowledgment at halfcourt before the game, and it seemed more than appropriate that assistant coach Kurt Rambis donned his old Clark Kent glasses for the game.

Then the game actually began and the Lakers’ four-game winning streak ended.


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