FINAL: LA Lakers: 129 Boston: 128
I’m just going to save us all of the trouble and get this out of the way to start. The last time I was this shocked watching a basketball game was when Tatum dunked on LeBron, and before that, when Hayward broke his leg. It was surreal and right when that ball bounced to Rondo, I was 100% sure that shot was going in. Before this moment I had been joking around saying that if Rondo didn’t get hurt in the first round 2 years ago he would’ve sent them home by himself (Honestly, that probably was not a joke). Rondo kills the Celtics and last night was no different as he posted 17/7/10 on 7-11 shooting from the floor and 3-4 from three. As hard as I may try to hate him in times like these seeing him in Laker gold, I can’t not love the guy. Just listen to this postgame interview. Even as he dawns Laker gold after sinking the Celtics on their home floor, he still bleeds green, and Boston is still home.
After a week or so of drama in the locker room this was such a big win for the Lakers. When everyone thought (including myself) that the Lakers would crumble and everything would go to shit in the meantime, they stepped up. Also for Rondo, what better way to return to Boston than to hit a buzzer beater AND have KG rocking your jersey in the crowd.
It came full circle and while I didn’t enjoy the outcome, it was still an amazing moment.
Rondo hit the clutch shot but the Lakers were led by a triple double by LeBron James (28/12/12 and 3 steals) and 25 points from Kyle Kuzma. After the Lakers were counted out by everyone I expected a big game out of LeBron. These are always the moments where he’s the most dangerous and he reaffirmed my thinking with his 77th career triple double.
The Lakers deserve credit for coming into Boston and taking home a win like that, but the Celtics handed it to them. They gave up leads all night long and they had countless opportunities to close the Lakers out late in the game. With 6:44 left in the second, after a Jaylen Brown three, the Celtics lead had ballooned to 53-35 and it looked like a blowout was on the horizon. Instead, the Lakers crawled back to eventually tie it up at 72 nearly 12 minutes later in the middle of the third. It was a disaster of a third quarter for the green as they gave up 42 points and let the Lakers hit 9-13 threes. It was a barrage and I couldn’t help but think the run could’ve been curtailed a bit with some timely timeouts.
While that run was frustrating, the game was there for the Celtics to close-out multiple times in the last 4 minutes. At 3:42 in the fourth, the Celtics pushed their lead to 119-113 only to let the Lakers score the next 5 points. Then once again, with 1:24 left after a Morris three the Celtics had a chance to close as they led 124-118. From there the Lakers hit 2 straight 3s, one of which off of a costly turnover by Kyrie Irving, and tied the game up at 124 with this bomb from LBJ.
There was no excuse for that and it was what gave the Lakers the chance to win it in the final seconds. They wanted it more and it showed not only on the scoreboard, but on the court as well. Top tier championship level teams close games like this out and the Celtics failed to do that last night.
The Lakers were also able to win this one despite shooting 7-18 from the free throw line, while the Celtics went 20-20 from the stripe. LA left that many points at the free throw line and they were still able to end up with the victory. The defense was lackluster and the Celtics allowed the 27th ranked 3-point shooting team in the league to roast them over an open campfire as the Lakers went 22-41 from downtown.
As a team they didn’t take care of business, but some performances stood out more than others for different reasons. To start, Jayson Tatum was on a roll last night as he had 22/10/5 on 9-14 shooting from the field.
I loved his decisiveness and continue to be impressed at how he’s developing. The shot selection has gotten a lot better, as he wasn’t forcing it, and was able to pick his spots nicely.
Ditto goes for the entire bench as they outperformed the starters by a wide margin.
Terry Rozier found something and had his best performance off of the bench this season. All 5 of his buckets were 3s and it’s incredible to see how much of a difference there is in his game when he just chills out a little bit. He’s a bundle of fire and he naturally gets carried away sometimes by going a billion miles per hour. He settled into his role last night and it paid dividends. He even had 8 points in the fourth quarter as I thought he and Daniel Theis kept the Celtics in it late.
Switching gears to Theis, what a performance he had last night. He had 20/6/2 while also blocking 2 shots as he was everywhere. There was a point in time where he legitimately was the best player on the court for like 5 minutes of game time.
His last 4 games he’s averaged 11.3/4.5/1.5 and 1.8 blocks on 18-21 shooting from the floor and 4-4 from deep. With Baynes out of the lineup he’s stepped up in a big way giving the Celtics a rim running big who can step outside and hit the three. On defense he’s so versatile and has given the Celtics a needed element of rim protection. While I’m not surprised (that’s the former German League Defensive Player of The Year), I’m impressed with how he’s put it all together. He’s playing some of the best basketball of his young career at a much needed time for this team.
Jaylen Brown continues to make everyone who claims he isn’t better than the Lakers young guys look like fools. 18 points on 7-10 shooting and put down the hammer a couple of times including this slam off the feed from Hayward.
Transitioning now from the good to the bad, the Marcus’s both had rough nights shooting the basketball. Mook was 1-5 from the floor while Smart was 2-10 (2-9 from deep). I’ve been hooting and hollering about Smart’s shooting for weeks now so it’s only fair I address it when it’s an issue. They weren’t falling and the Celtics had to look for offense elsewhere in the meantime. It was of his classic “I don’t care if it goes in, I’m still hurling them up there” games and it could’ve gotten ugly if the bench didn’t step up like they did.
The last guy I want to discuss is the man who’s name has been swirled around the rumor mill all week long, Kyrie Irving. I thought Kyrie was a big reason why the Celtics struggled last night and although he had some buckets late, the whole game left a bit to be desired. He ended up with 24/7/8 with 2 steals but was an abysmal 6-21 from the field. He credited a lot of his issues to Brandon Ingram’s defense.
While Ingram is lanky and I bet is an odd guy to be covered by, come on Kyrie. You’re a superstar in this league and you can’t get buckets because known defensive liability Brandon Ingram is on you? I just think he had an off night and he doesn’t have those often. He’s been on a tear lately and I guess now was just the time he was due to put up a stinker.
The Celtics have still won 10 of 12 games and appear be on the up and up. Last night was disappointing but they have to just move on and get back to work as the Clippers come to town tomorrow night for an 8 o’clock tip at the Garden.
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