Kevin McHale hit a short bank shot with one second left to lift the Celtics to a 104-102 victory over Los Angeles last night in Boston.
It was the teams' first meeting since the Celtics beat the Lakers to win last season's NBA title.
James Worthy had given the Lakers a 102-99 lead on a 12-foot jumper with 1:37 left.
However a layup by Robert Parish, assisted by Larry Bird, cut the margin to 102-101 with 44 seconds remaining. Parish was fouled on the play by Michael Cooper and sank the free throw to create the 17th and final tie of the game.
The Lakers had a chance to go ahead, but Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who led all scorers with 33 points, missed a shot. Earvin (Magic) Johnson got the rebound, but blew a layup with 15 seconds to go and Parish grabbed the rebound.
The Celtics called timeout with 14 seconds left. They worked the ball up the court, and Bird fed McHale, who sank his game-winning five-footer from the right side of the lane.
"We have a saying on the Celtics, 'Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you,' " said McHale, who had missed 12 of 15 shots before his winning basket. "Well, it had me in a headlock until that last shot."
The Celtics' seventh consecutive victory left them tied for first place in the Atlantic Division with Philadelphia. Both are 33-6. The Lakers, the Pacific Division leaders at 26-14, suffered their third consecutive defeat.
Dennis Johnson led Boston with 20 points. Bird and Parish had 19 each and Danny Ainge had 16.