Kobe comes up big one last time as Lakers down Celtics 112-104

Brandon Bass' long-awaited return (just kidding Kobe, we know it's all about you) started ignominiously, as the Mamba missed his first eight shots -- many of them badly -- and the Lakers trailed the Celtics 27-24 after one quarter. Jae Crowder kept the Celtics' offense afloat in the opening frame, scoring six of the C's first ten points and finishing the quarter with eleven, while Isaiah Thomas pitched in six.

The second quarter flipped the script entirely, with the Lakers young guns -- namely Julius Randle and D'Angelo Russel -- taking the reins, and the lead. Russel finished the half with a robust nine point, three assist, three rebound line, and Randle bullied his way to twelve points and seven rebounds, including an emphatic dunk over Kelly Olynyk late in the second quarter to put a stamp on a miserable defensive stanza for the Celtics. Thomas finished the half with eleven points and six assists, but the offensive spark did little to solve the defensive miscues which plagued the C's.

The defensive lapses continued in the third, with the Celtics looking downright lackadaisical as the Lakers pounded the ball into the paint again and again. Bryant continued his dumpster fire of a performance, making only three of his first fourteen shots, but the Lakers' young backcourt eviscerated the Celtics (especially Thomas, who earned a long stint on the bench in favor of Marcus Smart after consistently getting beat off the dribble).

The game seemed to turn when Smart slammed home a vicious dunk on a put back off an Evan Turner miss, but D'Angelo Russell promptly hit a pull up three to give the Lakers an 89-78 lead entering the final frame.

The Celtics made several spirited comeback attempts in the fourth, with Evan Turner (20 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds) shouldering the load by attacking the basket again and again as the clock wound down. The Celtics twice trimmed the Laker lead to two off an Avery Bradley put back dunk and a Bradley steal-and-score, and at that point it seemed like the Celtics might just pull out a win.

However, one Mr. Kobe Bean Bryant had one last hurrah left for the Garden faithful.

Twice in the final three minutes Bryant made key three-pointers, including a from-the-parking-lot bomb as the shot clock expired to give the Lakers a five point lead after Bradley had cut it to two. With the game winding down and the outcome no longer in question, the garden audibly started chanting Ko-be Bry-ant, honoring their great nemesis as he turned back the clock, if only for a quarter.

While the Celtics must be disappointed that they dropped a game to the worst team in the league not from Philadelphia, history will not remember that they ended a four-game winning streak tonight. History will remember just one thing; Bryant, absolutely spent after 20 years of playing the game as hard as anyone ever has, rising up to knock down one last dagger in the hearts of Celtics fans, and the crowd showing its adoration for a man you can't help but to respect.

Great recognizes great, and today, the greatest fans recognized one of the greatest players of all time, one last time.