Despite a poor night from the field, the Boston Celtics defeated the Los Angeles Lakers for their 10th straight victory.
Those pesky Lakers. This game had all the makings of a blowout. The Lakers had 16 points after the first quarter and a game-high deficit of 21 points. They had 10 turnovers in the first quarter, which set them on a 40-turnover pace. Lonzo Ball again struggled from the field.
After that first quarter, the Lakers upped their effort and surpassed the energy of the Celtics. They were better with the ball and had 11 turnovers the rest of the game. Ball still struggled, but continued to attack the basket and shoot 3-pointers. The game was not clean by any stretch, but it’s an improvement that allowed them to get back into the game.
About 99 percent of the credit for this game becoming competitive belongs to the Lakers, but one percent belongs to me for saying out loud after the first quarter it should be an easy win for the C’s — a pressbox no-no I should know by now. (I jinxed a local high school football game back in 2016. It was on pace for an hour-and-a-half, but ended up lasting three hours.)
The injury bug hit the Celtics for a third time already this season, as rookie wing Jayston Tatum only played nine minutes before he missed the rest of the game with an ankle injury — and the Celtics were already without Al Horford and Gordon Hayward. Missing three important pieces seemed to catch up with the C’s. Though they won, missing three of their best offensive players and a struggling Kyrie Irving allowed Aron Baynes to be the team’s leading scorer with 21.
But good teams win games they’re supposed to win, and they deserve credit for holding off the Lakers. They pulled away in crunch time, which is supposed to happen, and they hung 107 points and got their 10th straight win.
Here are three takeaways from Lakers-Celtics.
Nothing like offensive boards to curb inefficiency: The Celtics started the game 4-for-9 from 3-point land. They made three the rest of the game. They shot under 40 percent from the field.
But then they had 16 offensive boards. With Larry Nance Jr. injured and Brook Lopez floating around the 3-point line, the Lakers were bullied inside by Baynes and the length of the Celtics. Five players had a least two offensive boards for the C’s. The boards allowed the Celtics to skirt a poor shooting night with second-chance opportunities. Oh, and 24 points off turnovers don’t hurt those numbers either.
Brandon Ingram continues to do the little things: Ingram will be judged for his scoring, and rightfully so. He was lauded as a top scorer when he was drafted No. 2 overall last season. He’ll continue to grow into that role, and his struggles from the outside haven’t limited his aggressiveness or ability to be efficient from the field overall.
Several times he did little things. He showed good footwork down low on a layup attempt, swiveling off his pivot food to get an open look. He collapsed into the paint off an Irving drive and used his freakishly long arms to steal a kick out to the corner. He followed a missed Ball layup in transition with a putback dunk. He pump-faked Jaylen Brown off his feet, getting fouled while making a contorted jumper.
He’s still slight and can’t make space with his body. But that’ll come. His scoring is the least of his worries, especially considering his feel for the game.
Julius Randle is still good when he plays hard: The Celtics won, but for non-contenders like the Lakers, there are things they did well to warrant some takeaways. Zach Lowe calls these types of Randle performances “someone lit a fire under Julius Randle’s a–” games. In just over 11 minutes in the first half, he had 10 points, seven boards and two assists. He had three fouls, too, but that’s OK! Randle was the only player with a positive plus-minus on the Lakers. He added a boost and led the second unit to cutting a double-digit deficit to only nine at half.
Randle didn’t re-enter the game with 4:09 left in the third quarter. He added five more points and five rebounds and got to the line six times. He had a lapse in the third quarter when he bit on a pump fake from Daniel Theis and stood there as Theis drove unabated to the rim for an easy dunk.
This game was the first time Randle played over 20 minutes since Oct. 27 against the Raptors. He was active and crashed the boards. He’s not happy about playing off the bench, but if can turn these “Lit fire under his a–” games then he’ll put some pressure on his coach to make a move. Then again, we’ve heard that before.