BOSTON (AP) — The familiar "Beat LA!" chant started in the third quarter.
It's easier to do that now than it was during most of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry. But there's still something special when the teams who have met in a record 12 NBA Finals face each other, even if they've been struggling just to reach the playoffs.
"No matter what direction these teams are going, it'll always be a rivalry," Paul Pierce said. "Everybody's always going to watch."
On Thursday night, they saw a 116-95 rout by Boston, its biggest win of the season and Los Angeles' worst loss.
The Lakers got Dwight Howard back after he missed three games with a sore right shoulder. He had nine points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes before fouling out with 5:07 left.
"There were a couple times where I felt" pain in the shoulder, he said. "I just tried not to think about it."
But they were without Pau Gasol for the first time since he was diagnosed with a torn plantar fascia in his right foot that will sideline him indefinitely.
Boston was missing two key players, both out for the season. Point guard Rajon Rondo sat out his sixth game with a torn ligament in his right knee and the Celtics have won them all. Rookie forward Jared Sullinger missed his fourth game following back surgery.
In fact, only two active players on each team remained from the 2010 squads that reached the NBA Finals, won in seven games by the Lakers — Pierce and Kevin Garnett for Boston and Kobe Bryant and Metta World Peace for Los Angeles.
In 2008, the Celtics won the title in six games over the Lakers. Before that, they met three times in the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson era of the 1980s with Los Angeles winning twice.
"You walk through these hallways when you come in here," said Pierce, who scored 12 of his 24 points in the third quarter when Boston pulled away. "You see the whole rivalry, pictures. You see throughout the decades how it goes, regular season, postseason, championship. It's always going to have that extra little edge to this game."
But now the Lakers are in 10th place in the West, 3 1/2 games behind the Houston Rockets for the final playoff spot in the conference despite winning six of their last eight games. The Celtics broke a seventh-place tie with the Milwaukee Bucks in the East and trail the Atlanta Hawks by just 1 1/2 games for sixth.
They've moved up without their star point guard.
"Our guys just think they're good," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "We're playing selfless and free."
The Lakers aren't passing the ball well enough with just 16 assists on Thursday or shooting accurately with just a 41.4 field goal percentage against the Celtics.