BOSTON (AP) - Kobe Bryant bumped fists with Ray Allen, a show of respect for a player who entered the NBA with him 15 years ago and had just become the league's 3-point king.
As Allen went off the court for a victory lap, the roar of the fans made Boston's arena sound like mid-June.
Then it was time for Bryant to quiet them down.
The All-Star guard scored 20 of his 23 points in the second half, rallying the Los Angeles Lakers to a 92-86 victory over the Celtics on Thursday night in an NBA finals rematch.
Allen became the career leader in 3-pointers in the first quarter, but Bryant later put him on the bench in foul trouble during his big second half as Los Angeles overcame an early 15-point deficit.
``In the first half, they got a lot of easy opportunities in transition, a lot of easy catch-and-shoots and things like that,' Bryant said. ``We just kind of had to put a stop to it.'
Pau Gasol added 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, who split the regular-season series with their biggest rivals and got a sorely needed victory - the best of the season, according to center Andrew Bynum - against one of the league's top teams.
``It's always fun to beat Boston,' Bynum said.
Bynum, the subject of trade rumors in the never-ending Carmelo Anthony saga, finished with 16 points and nine rebounds.
As Bryant exited the locker room, a security guard told the superstar he would see him in June.
That would be fine with Bryant.
``This is one of the best atmospheres, if not the best atmosphere playing in the league today,' Bryant said.
It was at its raucous best in the first quarter, when Allen hit two 3-pointers to pass former Indiana Pacers star Reggie Miller (2,560), who was sitting courtside calling the game for TNT. But Allen made only one more and had 20 points after scoring 12 in the first quarter.
``I almost felt a little embarrassed because there was so much attention surrounding this 3-point record,' Allen said. ``It was so overwhelming, but it was a great moment. I'll remember this for the rest of my life.'
Paul Pierce had 15 points for the Celtics, who came in shooting an NBA-best 49.7 percent and shredded the Lakers for 60 percent shooting in their 109-96 victory at Los Angeles on Jan. 30, but went cold after a strong start in this one and finished at 40 percent.
Without Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal, the Celtics were outrebounded 47-36. Kevin Garnett had 11 boards, but shot only 4 of 13 for his 10 points.
``Definitely hurts when you are down a number of guys, but we aren't going to make excuses because we had a 13, 14-point lead,' Pierce said. ``At the end of the day, you have four All-Stars you put on the court and we are more than capable of winning these types of games.'
Bryant scored 41 points in the January loss, but seemed headed nowhere near it after taking only three shots in the first half. He had a quick flurry out of halftime, then had eight points in the final 4:51 to help the Lakers hold on.
``You knew once he saw it was a chance to win, Kobe was going to be Kobe,' Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. ``I think we knew that a week ago.'
Lamar Odom finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and one headache for the Lakers, who moved to 3-0 on their seven-game Grammys road trip that continues Friday in New York.
Down eight at halftime, Los Angeles return from the locker room with a 10-0 burst, and it was back and forth the remainder of the third quarter. The Lakers scored six consecutive points late in the period, the last two in painful fashion after Odom tipped in Gasol's miss, then their heads collided as they turned to run downcourt. Los Angeles led 72-68 after three.
``The third quarter we decided to play some defense and Kobe got hot. It's just that simple,' Bynum said. ``We stopped being so late on the rotations. Pierce wasn't quite as effective.'
Sporting a large bandage on his forehead, Odom opened the fourth with a 3-pointer, but the Celtics were only down three midway through the period before Bryant made two jumpers and a layup to push the lead to 88-79 with 3:12 remaining. Boston got back within five, but Bryant found Gasol for a bucket underneath, then had a jumper with 48 seconds to play.
It gets no easier for the Celtics, who host Miami on Sunday in a showdown of Eastern Conference powers.
Allen tied the record with his first 3-pointer with 4:14 left in the first quarter, but missed on the next possession with the crowd ready to roar. He nailed the record breaker with 1:48 to go, taking a pass from Rajon Rondo as he trailed on a delayed break and pulling up from the right wing for a 22-14 lead.
Allen had 12 points in the period, then was honored during the break with a loud, standing ovation. The sharpshooter from the University of Connecticut hugged Miller, then his mother before going into the crowd to see his family, and got a fist bump from Bryant, a rival from the draft class of 1996. A video montage in the second quarter showed highlights from his earlier years in Milwaukee and Seattle.
It seemed there'd be plenty of time for celebrating his big night when the Celtics rolled to a 15-point lead on Allen's dunk with 5:28 left in the half. But the Lakers ran off 10 in a row later in the half and were down only 53-45 at halftime.
NOTES: Celtics reserve guard Nate Robinson limped off with a bruised right knee in the second quarter, and it was determined at halftime he wouldn't return. With Allen and then backup Von Wafer forced to the bench by foul trouble, the Celtics had to go to rookie Avery Bradley, recently recalled from the NBA Development League, to defend Bryant late in the third quarter. ... Allen received the NBA Cares Community Assist Award for January for his support of U.S. troops overseas and his local charity efforts.
The Associated Press News Service
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