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Lakers outlast Celtics, Spoil Rondo’s Return

AP/ Charles Krupa

AP/ Charles Krupa

BOSTON (AP) — Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo returned from a knee injury and missed a 3-pointer that could have sent the game into overtime, allowing the Los Angeles Lakers to beat Boston 107-104 on Friday night.

Pau Gasol had 24 points and 13 rebounds for Los Angeles, and Kendall Marshall finished with 19 points and 14 assists. Ryan Kelly scored 20 points and Wesley Johnson added 11 points and 11 rebounds, including a 3-pointer with 69 seconds left to give the Lakers the lead for good.

Kelly added a pair of clinching free throws with 9.4 seconds remaining as the Lakers snapped a six-game losing streak.

Kelly Olynyk scored a career-high 25 points for Boston. Rondo, who was limited to 20 minutes in his first game since tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament on Jan. 25, 2013, had eight points, four assists and two rebounds.

The Celtics led by as many as 13 points in the second quarter and still held a 97-94 lead when Rondo, who played about five minutes each quarter, checked back in with 4:53 left. Olynyk soon made a jumper from the top of the key and then Rondo hit Avery Bradley for a 3-pointer on the wing to extend the lead to eight points.

It was 104-96 when Johnson made a 3-pointer, then two offensive rebounds gave the Celtics three tries to score, but they came away with nothing. Jodie Meeks made a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game, and with Rondo bringing the ball down the crowd rose to its feet.

But the four-time All-Star back-rimmed a long shot. The Lakers were forced into a shot-clock violation, but Bradley missed a runner. Boston forced a jump ball — and then a rejump when the tip went out of bounds — but Johnson got it to Kelly, who was fouled.

The free throws left the Celtics with a three-point deficit and less than 10 seconds.

The crowd worked itself into a ‘‘Beat L.A.!’’ chant.

Rondo dribbled the clock down and was left alone for a 3-pointer, but it missed badly, and in the scramble for the rebound the buzzer went off.

In all, the Celtics missed their last seven shots of the game.

The defeat deflated the excitement of Rondo’s return to a team much different than the one he left — a two-time NBA finalist stocked with All-Stars. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are in Brooklyn, Doc Rivers is with the Clippers and the Celtics are coming off a nine-game losing streak that has solidified their position in the draft lottery.

The crowd began anticipating Rondo’s return right before introductions, when the video monitor started showing clips from him working out to Van Halen’s ‘‘Right Now.’’ The cheering grew louder when the scoreboard said, ‘‘No. 9 Returns Tonight.’’

Rondo received a huge cheer when he was introduced before the game. The public address announcer called his name last, as the Celtics’ captain and only remaining star. Rondo then went to mid-court to receive a community service award.

Rondo played 4 minutes, 56 seconds in the first quarter, registering one rebound and missing two shots. He shot 4 for 5 in the second quarter, when he played about five minutes. He did not have an assist in the first half, though several good passes were wasted when his teammates missed shots.

The longstanding rivalry between Boston and Los Angeles has lost some of its luster with Boston’s most recent Big Three long gone and Lakers star Kobe Bryant recovering from a broken bone in his left knee. In fact, the Celtics and Lakers had never been this bad when they faced each other: According to the Elias Sports Bureau, their combined winning percentage of .354 (28-51) was the lowest ever for the longtime rivals in a head-to-head matchup (after the first five games of the season).

What’s worse, the Lakers had won only one game since the weekend before Christmas, and Boston had won just two.

NOTES: The Celtics signed G-F Chris Johnson to a 10-day contract. He did not play. … The game marked the arrival of Joel Anthony, who was acquired by Boston from the Miami Heat in a three-team trade on Wednesday. He did not play. … Bryant missed his 15th consecutive game for the Lakers with a left knee fracture. He did make the trip — and popped in on a Boston College marketing class on Thursday night.

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