There still is not a better rivalry in the NBA than Celtics vs. Lakers, a feud that manages to entertain out of some deep, decades-old obligation to spite one another even when the teams are just OK or when one’s internal bickering is more fun than its game. Paul Pierce, the Inglewood native turned Celtics No. 2 all-time scorer, and Kobe Bryant have propped up this rivalry many times, through lean years and two NBA Finals. Even when they weren’t meeting in the 2008 and 2010 Finals — such as through the six years when Pierce’s team was under .500, and when the Lakers regressed into a mid-2000s autocracy — the basketball couldn’t be missed because of those two stars. Tonight the teams meet for the 35th time in the regular and postseasons combined since Bryant and Pierce were both playing, a string in which both players exceed their career averages for points. Is it the team rivalry that brings that out or the personal one? With Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger hurt for Boston and Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard injured for L.A. tonight, could this game become a throwback duel between Pierce and Kobe? (We hope so). Before we find out, we wanted to look back.
These 10 games stand out as the best in a rivalry that’s been brewing since the first meeting, on Feb. 25, 2000.
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10. Jan. 31, 2010
Six months before the Lakers would upend Boston for the NBA title, Bryant left a harbinger in Beantown with his seven-foot fadeaway over Ray Allen to take a 90-89 lead with seven seconds left. This wasn’t the Allen of 2012 who hobbled around the last half of the season as a defensive liability; Allen’s defense in the final seconds, during a screen and a give-and-go, was hand-in-glove tight. To date it’s the only shot Bryant’s ever made against the Celtics to tie or take the lead in the final minute of a game and was another reminder Bryant (19 points, six assists) is 19-15 in the series all-time — just barely better than Pierce (15 points in this game).