January 24, 2018, 2:30 am
The Lakers earned a hard-fought 108-107 victory over the rival Boston Celtics on Tuesday night.
Boston came into the game as the best defensive team in the NBA and in the first quarter it really showed as they finished up 21-15. The Lakers 15 points was their lowest first quarter output on the season — their previous low was 16 against the Celtics in their last meeting. Both teams really struggled during that frame as Boston shot 9-of-25 (36.0 percent) and Los Angeles made only 6-of-21 (28.6 percent) while missing all seven of their 3-point attempts.
The rest of the game was a relative offensive explosion considering the Celtics’ defensive prowess as Los Angeles scored 93 points across the final three quarters.
Boston out-dueled the Lakers in the second quarter to take a 53-45 lead at the half but the Lakers would open the third quarter with another level of determination and effort. Los Angeles blitzed the Celtics with a 12-3 run to take the lead at 57-56. Brook Lopez had his most influential stint of the game to spark the run, including a 3-point play to take the lead, which he followed up with an emphatic block. He tallied seven points, two rebounds and a block in that frame alone to lead the Lakers to a 76-74 lead.
The fourth quarter was the Kyle Kuzma show as he caught fire, scoring 17 points while knocking down multiple heat-check type 3-pointers and carrying the Lakers on his back. Perhaps his most impressive individual play was an behind-the-back pass to Larry Nance Jr. for a dunk.
It appeared the Lakers had the game in hand with a 106-100 lead with 26 seconds remaining before they decided to make a game of it. They missed 4-of-6 free throws, made poor decisions on the defensive end and allowed themselves to be trapped along the sideline twice. Coach Luke Walton gambled and lost by inserting Kentavious Caldwell-Pope with six seconds remaining — it failed as he missed two free throws and the Lakers escaped with the one-point win after Marcus Smart missed a shot at the buzzer.
The player of the game was Kuzma as he led the Lakers with 28 points, adding four rebounds, three assists and a plus-2 rating while making 10-of-16 from the field and 5-of-7 3-pointers. He demonstrated his full offensive arsenal with an array of spin-moves, floaters and jump shots — he was sensational.
Jordan Clarkson continued his excellent play of late with 22 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals while shooting 8-of-17 from the field, 0-of-4 from 3-point range and 6-of-7 from the free throw line. He made a series of clutch plays including knocking down 4-of-4 free throws down the stretch, without which the Lakers would have certainly lost.
Julius Randle played another strong game, overcoming a hard fall early on to finish with 14 points, 14 rebounds, one assist and one steal on 6-of-12 shooting from the field. He was aggressive in attacking a tough defender in Al Horford and acquitted himself well in a big win for the young Lakers.
One Laker who did not excel during this game was Caldwell-Pope who had eight points, four rebounds and one assists on 2-of-8 shooting from the field, 2-of-6 from 3-point range and 2-of-4 from the free throw line. More concerning was the 0-for-2 free throws with the game on the line, multiple instances of ole defense and a floater off the side off the backboard that led to a Boston 3-pointer and a momentum switch in the second quarter. Perhaps the couple days off will afford him time to regain his health and confidence.
Boston was led by Kyrie Irving who put on a show with his unparalleled ball-handling and ability to finish for a guard. He accrued 33 points, three rebounds, four assists and a plus-16 rating while shooting 13-of-24 from the floor, 4-of-11 from 3-point range and 3-of-3 from the line. The Lakers went on a pivotal 10-3 run in the fourth quarter during the two-plus minutes that he was rested.
The Celtics got a good performance from Smart off the bench who accumulated 22 points, two rebounds, eight assists and one steal before missing the final shot.
Horford also played well with 13 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and two blocks.
The one real disappointment for the Celtics was rookie Jayson Tatum who was severely outplayed by Kuzma, finishing with only four points and five rebounds on 1-of-6 shooting from the field, 1-of-3 from 3-point range and 1-of-2 from the free throw line.
The Lakers won their third game in a row without Lonzo Ball, while the Celtics incurred a season-high fourth consecutive loss.
Key Stats and Observations
- Los Angeles nearly gave this game away by missing 10 free throws in the fourth quarter alone. Overall, they shot a dismal 21-of-36 (58.3 percent) vs. 8-of-10 (80.0 percent) for Boston and were fortunate to hold on to this victory due to their complete ineptitude from the line.
- One key to the Lakers’ triumph was their effort on the glass as they outrebounded the Celtics 51-to-42 including 14-to-7 offensive rebounds.
- The Lakers did an excellent job of taking care of the basketball as they committed only 10 turnovers while the Celtics only turned the ball over 11 times.
- Los Angeles overcame poor 3-point shooting as they converted only 7-of-26 (26.9 percent) from that distance vs. 15-of-44 (34.1 percent) for Boston.
- The Lakers lead the league in points in the paint and tonight was no different as they outscored the Celtics 58-to-14 inside.
- Los Angeles has only 16 turnovers in the last two games combined after averaging over 16 per game on the season.
The Lakers (18-29) must leave the friendly confines of Staples Center to take on the Chicago Bulls (18-29) on Friday.
Los Angeles has won 7-of-9 games and is playing hard, competitive basketball of late.
There is a small chance that they will get back starting point guard Lonzo Ball, though it is unlikely as he has yet to practice with the team. The Lakers have won three games in a row without him after starting the season 0-of-8 in games that he missed due to injury.
The Bulls have several excellent players including rookie Lauri Markkanen, the No. 7 overall player in this year’s draft. The seven-footer is averaging 15.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.3 3-pointers a game. He recently set a record as the fastest player to hit 100 career 3-pointers, achieving the feat in his 41st game.