That was why Bryant suggested Andrew Bynum take it, and the All-Star center leapt at the opportunity to seal Los Angeles’s latest win in what is perhaps the ’s most storied rivalry.
Bryant scored 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter and made a go-ahead jumper with 41.7 seconds left, and Bynum’s hook shot over Kevin Garnett capped the Lakers’ 97-94 victory Sunday.
Bynum had 20 points and 14 rebounds as the Lakers rallied from a 5-point deficit in the final two and a half minutes, scoring the final 8 points. Bryant and Bynum each scored 4, but only after Bryant urged Coach Mike Brown to use him as a decoy.
“Andrew is too big — you can’t teach that,” Bryant said. “I knew it was going to be a high-percentage shot.”
After Bynum coolly scored out of a timeout with 15.5 seconds left, Boston could not get a good look at a tying 3-pointer.
Bynum appeared to take particular satisfaction in his decisive role in the victory after years as a supporting player to Bryant’s late-game heroics.
“It was crazy,” Bynum said. “Kobe came up with that play. He said, ‘They’re not going to be able to know what to do.’ I was able to get deep position and go to work.”
Rajon Rondo had 24 points and 10 assists for the Celtics, who opened an eight-game 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.
The Lakers earned their 18th victory in 19 home games, stylishly finishing their third straight victory over Boston in yet another thrilling meeting.
“We love beating this team,” Bynum said.
The game might have been the final meeting for the current veteran cores of the franchises that met in the N.B.A. finals in 2008 and 2010. Boston’s Big Three of Garnett, Allen and Paul Pierce could be broken up after this season, while both Pau Gasol and Rondo are the subject of trade rumors.
If this was the finale, both teams went out in style.
“It’s almost as if this is for the championship every time we play them,’ ” said Allen, who scored 17 points. “It definitely was an entertaining game.”
Boston erased an early 15-point deficit and clung to a small lead down the stretch. Allen’s 3-pointer put the Celtics ahead by 94-89 with 2 minutes 41 seconds left, but Los Angeles trimmed the lead to a point on baskets by Bryant and Bynum before Bryant made his 14-footer to put the Lakers ahead.
Allen hit three 3-pointers and had six assists for the Celtics, and Brandon Bass scored 15 points but missed a go-ahead jumper in the final minute. Pierce had 13 points and 9 assists but shot 4 of 14.
CAVALIERS 118, ROCKETS 107 Antawn Jamison scored 28 points and the rookie Kyrie Irving scored 16 of his 21 points in the final 4:14 for host Cleveland.
The Cavaliers, coming off impressive road victories over Denver and Oklahoma City, have moved back into the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.
“You have to pay attention to the standings,” Irving said. “I’m aware we’re a game out of the eighth spot.”
The Knicks currently hold that final position.
WARRIORS 97, CLIPPERS 93 Monta Ellis (21 points, 11 assists) and David Lee (18 points, 10 rebounds) had double-doubles as Golden State won in Los Angeles.
MAGIC 107, PACERS 94 Dwight Howard had 30 points and 13 rebounds, and J. J. Redick added 18 points and a career-high 9 assists as Orlando won at home. The Magic played without starters Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson, but seemed unfazed as they built a 20-point lead in the first half and got 30 points from their reserves.
BUCKS 105, RAPTORS 99 Ersan Ilyasova had 31 points and 12 rebounds, Drew Gooden added 21 points and visiting Milwaukee posted its sixth straight victory over Toronto.
GRIZZLIES 94, NUGGETS 91 O. J. Mayo scored 22 points, including a critical 3-pointer in the closing seconds, as visiting Memphis hung on. The Grizzlies swept their three-game regular season series against the Nuggets for the first time in their history. Mike Conley, who returned after sustaining a cut above his right eye, added 13 points. Dante Cunningham had 12 points and Tony Allen 10 for the Grizzlies, who also snapped an eight-game losing streak in Denver.
HAWKS 106, KINGS 99 Josh Smith scored 19 of his 28 points in the second half for visiting Atlanta, which beat Sacramento for the eighth straight time.