LOS ANGELES — The Lakers needed a last-minute basket to hold off the Boston Celtics, and Kobe Bryant knew everyone in green would expect him to take the shot.
That’s why Bryant suggested Andrew Bynum should do it — and the All-Star center leaped at the opportunity to seal Los Angeles’ latest win in the NBA’s most storied rivalry.
Bryant scored 10 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter, including a go-ahead jumper with 41.7 seconds to play, and Bynum’s hook shot over Kevin Garnett capped the Lakers’ 97-94 win Sunday.
Bynum had 20 points and 14 rebounds as the Lakers rallied from a five-point deficit in the final 2½ minutes, scoring the final eight points. Bryant and Bynum had four apiece — but only after Kobe urged coach Mike Brown to use him as a decoy.
“Andrew is too big. You can’t teach that,” Bryant said with a grin. “I knew it was going to be a high-percentage shot.”
After Bynum coolly scored out of a timeout with 15.5 seconds left, Boston didn’t get a good look at a tying 3-pointer, sending the Lakers to their third straight victory over their longtime rivals and 18th win in 19 home games.
Bynum appeared to take particular satisfaction in his decisive role in the victory after years as a supporting player to Bryant’s late-game heroics.
“It was crazy,” Bynum said. “Kobe came up with that play. He said, ‘They’re not going to be able to know what to do.’ I was able to get deep position and go to work.”
Rajon Rondo had 24 points and 10 assists for the Celtics, who opened an eight-game trip. On Boston’s final possession, Ray Allen failed to get free for a 3-pointer before Rondo badly missed a desperate tying attempt.
The game might have been the final meeting for the current veteran cores of the franchises that met in the NBA Finals in 2008 and 2010, adding new chapters to the rivalry’s history. Boston’s Big Three could be broken up after this season, while Pau Gasol and Rondo are the subject of rampant trade rumors.
If this was the finale, both clubs went out in style.
“You come into (this rivalry) with the mindset that, ‘This is it,’ ” said Allen, who scored 17 points. “It’s almost as if this is for the championship every time we play them. It definitely was an entertaining game.”AROUND THE LEAGUE
■ SIXERS DOWN KNICKS — At New York, Lou Williams had 28 points and Evan Turner 24 points and 15 rebounds as Philadelphia won its third straight, 106-94 over New York. Jeremy Lin shot 5 of 18 for 14 points for the Knicks, who have lost five straight.
■ HOWARD POWERS MAGIC — At Orlando, Fla., Dwight Howard had 30 points and 13 rebounds as Orlando handed Indiana its fourth straight loss, 107-94. The Magic have won four of five and finished 3-1 against the Pacers.
■ CLIPPERS LOSE GRIP — At Los Angeles, Dorell Wright had 20 points and Monta Ellis 19 as Golden State knocked Los Angeles out of first place in the Pacific Division with a 97-93 win.
■ GRIZZLIES SWEEP NUGGETS — At Denver, O.J. Mayo had 22 points, including a key 3-pointer in the closing seconds, as Memphis hung on to beat Denver 94-91 to sweep the three-game season series for the first time.
■ CAVS STAY HOT — At Cleveland, Antawn Jamison had 28 points to lead six double-figure scorers as Cleveland had a season high in points, beating Houston 118-107 for its first three-game winning streak of 2011-12.