Somewhere between Jason Terry’s 25-foot three-pointer in the first half and Dwight Howard fouling out in the fourth quarter, Los Angeles realized it was not going to be their evening.
The short-handed Boston Celtics steamrollered the Lakers 116-95 on Thursday behind a potent offense, including Paul Pierce’s 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Jeff Green scored 19 points off the bench, while Terry and Kevin Garnett added 15 apiece for the Celtics, who shot 53 percent from the field and led by as many as 32 points in the second half.
“I like our drive, I like our spirit,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “We’re playing selfless and free.”
The Celtics won again despite missing All-Star Rajon Rondo, who is out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Boston have won all six games since guard Rondo went down with the knee injury.
They were also without rookie starter Jared Sullinger, whose first season ended with back surgery.
“During the six-game streak we’ve had a lot of lessons,” Rivers said. “You don’t sit on a lead with offense. You sit on a lead with defense.”
The contest was hyped as a battle between two of the most storied franchises in the NBA, but it ended up being a mismatch.
Garnett reached a milestone against the Lakers by reaching 25,000 career points. He is only the 16th player in history to hit that plateau.
It marked the worst loss of the season for the Lakers, who fell behind 103-71 with 8 minutes, 16 seconds left in the fourth and looked listless despite getting center Dwight Howard back.
The Lakers went into the contest having won all three games Howard missed with a shoulder injury.
Howard was a non-factor against the Celtics, fouling out with just over five minutes left in the fourth. He finished with just nine points and nine rebounds.
Kobe Bryant had 27 points as the Lakers dropped to 3-2 on their seven-game road trip. It marked just the third time this season Bryant did not record an assist.
The Lakers got more bad news just prior to the tip-off when they learned forward Pau Gasol had suffered a tear of the plantar fascia — on the bottom of his right foot — and would be out for a minimum six weeks.
Metta World Peace returned on Thursday from a one-game suspension, but he looked out of sorts early and finished with just five points on two-of-13 shooting from the field in the loss.
NUGGETS 128, BULLS 96
In Denver, Colorado, the Nuggets rolled to their eighth successive victory with a demolition of the Chicago Bulls at home on Thursday.
Denver pushed to 32-18 this season with victory over the Bulls (29-20), who were blown away in a third-quarter blitz.
Leading by just five at halftime, the home side posted 37 points in the third quarter, while holding the Bulls to just 16, ending the game as a contest.
Wilson Chandler led the way from the bench for the Nuggets with 24 points, while Kenneth Faried added 21 points and 12 rebounds.
It is the first time since Jan. 2010 the Nuggets have won eight in a row and they are now ranked fourth in the Western Conference, having won 14 of their past 16 games.