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Celtics handle Bryant, Lakers

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BOSTON — There was a time when it really meant something for the Boston Celtics to beat the rival Detroit Pistons and Los Angeles Lakers back-to-back.

That was a long time ago.

These days, wins over those fallen villains just mean … well, two wins.

Two nights after beating the Pistons in overtime, the Celtics led almost throughout and rolled to a 113-96 victory over Kobe Bryant and the Lakers on Friday night.

The Pistons and Lakers, both once among the NBA elite, are a combined 8-31.

Center Tyler Zeller scored a career-high 24 points and grabbed a season-high 14 rebounds, forward Jared Sullinger delivered 17 points and 13 boards and guard Rajon Rondo dished out 16 assists to power Boston (6-11).

“Obviously, Tyler played at a really high level, and I felt Rondo was much more aggressive and comfortable being aggressive tonight and that was great,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said. “Any time that he’s probing like that, Tyler’s going to roll to the rim and be available.”

Stevens said he had a chat with Rondo after the morning shootaround and told his point guard to shoot the ball more. Rondo was just 6 of 17 from the floor, but Stevens didn’t care. Rondo’s aggressiveness led Zeller to a 10-of-11 shooting night, mostly from in tight.

“He played a whole lot harder than our bigs did. That’s the bottom line,” said Lakers coach Byron Scott, a big part of the Boston-LA rivalry who coached Zeller in Cleveland.

Zeller said, “It’s just one of those things where the more I play with him the easier it gets. Everybody knows he’s a phenomenal passer, somebody that’s going to find the right guy, the open guy and tonight it was me. Other nights it’s been other guys so we just continue to work together and try to get somebody open on our team.”

It was the Celtics’ first win in eight games against the Western Conference.

Los Angeles (5-15), down by as many as 18 points in the third quarter and 14 in the fourth, closed to within nine with 7:49 left. But the Celtics, who have blown all kinds of leads so far this season, used a 19-5 run to seal the deal.

Rondo, who had 12 points and eight rebounds, has 43 assists in the last three games. His 16 assists were two more than the entire Lakers team.

Forward Jeff Green added 19 points and guard Avery Bradley 16 in the win.

Bryant, averaging 25.2 points per game in his regular-season career against Boston, led the Lakers with 22 points, but the star guard was just 9 of 21 from the floor.

“We’ve had our battles, but it doesn’t carry over to these kind of games,” Bryant said.

Asked about his team, he said, “It’s very hard. You just have to stay the course, continue to teach as much as I possibly can, and take each game as it comes.”

Guard Nick Young added 16 points and guard Jeremy Lin had 14, but Lin didn’t play in the fourth quarter.

The Lakers, who led only 3-0, had Scott saying he’s ready to make lineup changes.

“Bad start. We just didn’t show a lot of energy to start the game,” Scott said. “Our second unit came in and did a pretty good job getting us back in the game. Third quarter, we started the same way we started in the first quarter and you just can’t do that.

“Pretty simple. They played harder than we did and we got what we deserved. … It just looked like we were disinterested in playing.”

NOTES: Lakers G Kobe Bryant and Celtics G Rajon Rondo had breakfast together on Thursday. Bryant called it a “basketball geek” conversation, much of it about their two meetings in the NBA Finals — adding he wasn’t recruiting Rondo, a potential free agent next summer. Sort of. “No, I haven’t thought about having any future teammates before,” he said, sarcastically. LA coach Byron Scott is old school and clearly wasn’t thrilled at the get-together. … Meanwhile, CSNNE, citing a league source, reported Rondo’s “first priority” is staying in Boston — and ESPN Los Angeles reported the Celtics want him. … Bryant needs 77 points to pass Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA’s career scoring list. … LA G Jeremy Lin, a former Harvard star, got a huge ovation on Asian-American Night. … Rookie Celtics G Marcus Smart, who played briefly on Wednesday after returning from an ankle sprain, didn’t play on Friday, coach Brad Stevens feeling Smart still isn’t ready. … The Celtics host Paul Pierce and the Washington Wizards on Sunday, and the Lakers, who ended their three-game trip on Friday, are home to face the New Orleans Pelicans on Sunday.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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