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Celtics crush Lakers by 21 as Howard fouls out

BOSTON, Massachusetts -- Somewhere between Jason Terry's 25-foot three pointer in the first half and Dwight Howard fouling out in the fourth quarter, Los Angeles realized this wasn't going to be their evening.

The short-handed Boston Celtics steamrolled the Lakers 116-95 on Thursday behind a potent offence, including Paul Pierce's 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Jeff Green scored 19 points off the bench, while Terry and Kevin Garnett added 15 apiece for the Celtics who shot 53 percent from the field and led by as many as 32 points in the second half.

“I like our drive, I like our spirit,” said Celtic coach Doc Rivers. “We're playing selfless and free.”

The Celtics won again despite missing all-star Rajon Rondo, who is out with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Boston has won all six games since guard Rondo went down with the knee injury.

They are also without rookie starter Jared Sullinger, whose first season ended with back surgery.

“During the six game streak we've had a lot of lessons,” Rivers said. “You don't sit on a lead with offence. You sit on a lead with defence.”

The contest was hyped as a battle between two of the most storied franchises in the NBA but it ended up being a mismatch.

Garnett reached a milestone against the Lakers by reaching 25,000 career points. He is only the 16th player in history to hit that plateau.

It marked the worst loss of the season for the Lakers, who fell behind 103-71 with 8:16 left in the fourth and looked listless despite getting center Dwight Howard back. The Lakers came into the contest having won all three games Howard missed with a shoulder injury.

Howard was a nonfactor against the Celtics, fouling out with just over five minutes left in the fourth. He finished with just nine points and nine rebounds.

Kobe Bryant had 27 points as the Lakers dropped to 3-2 on their seven-game road trip. It marked just the third time this season Bryant did not record an assist.

The Lakers got more bad news just prior to the opening tip off as they learned forward Pau Gasol suffered a tear of the plantar fascia — on the bottom of his right foot — and will be out for a minimum six to eight weeks.

Metta World Peace returned Thursday from a one-game suspension but he looked out of sorts early and finished with just five points on two-of-13 shooting from the field in the loss.

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Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce #34 dumps off the ball to center Jason Collins #98 as he is pressured by Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard #12 during the first quarter of an NBA game in Boston, Thursday, Feb. 7. (AP)

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