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Daniel Theis’ strong game was a quiet hope in noisy loss at home

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The Celtics center didn’t win the game against the Lakers, but he was excellent, leading a bench unit that kept Boston in the game while the starters struggled and team defense suffered.

Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Rajon Rondo got the last word in Boston Thursday night, draining a soft-touch jumper to take a game on the road for the Los Angeles Lakers. It was one swoosh of many for LA, on a night when one of the worst-shooting teams in the league got hot in the second half, while almost the entirety of Boston’s rotation went cold.

But in the darkness that erased an 18-point Celtics lead, second-year big Daniel Theis glimmered. In the third quarter, with the rest of his team struggling and the Lakers’ Kyle Kuzma lightning the net on fire on the other end, the German center put up 12 badly-needed points—the rest of the team managed just 15. Theis finished the game with 20 points (perfect from beyond the arc on his two attempts), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks.

The loss shouldn’t be diminished. These Celtics need to build leads and close games, especially as they fight stay in the mix for home court advantage. But positive energy can be a much more productive source of motivation—and in a month marked by roiling rumors and negativity, the Celtics can at least hang their hats on the steady improvement of the bench and the readiness of Theis who has taken over for Aron Baynes as the second unit center

In front of a home crowd hungry for a statement win over a Lebron-lead team, Theis injected some life into Boston’s offense in the stagnant third quarter, starting with a pretty pick-and-pop bucket from 17-feet off a shovel pass from Gordon Hayward.

“Daniel was a game changer, he played very well,” said Celtics guard Terry Rozier during his post-game availability. “We just fed off his energy. On defense he was blocking shots, on offense he was playing with confidence, knocking down shots, tip-ins, dunks. It was good to see him rolling like that.”

Theis was a bucket short of his season-high 22 points wen he went 8-of-15 from the field in 32 minutes during the 133-77 beat down of the Chicago Bulls back in December.

Against the Lakers, Theis put up his 20 in 10 fewer minutes on four fewer shots and he stayed busy at the rim, taking advantage of a Los Angeles team prone to taking defensive naps after the shot attempt.

Theis’s energy, alongside Jaylen Brown and Rozier, was the first glimmer of hope for the Celtics after a dismal stretch for the starting unit to begin the third quarter.

“I thought Jaylen, Terry, and Theis gave us a chance,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens after the loss. “But we didn’t guard ‘em tonight.”

On a night like this, with former Celtic Rondo leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of Boston fans, it’s worthwhile to look back at some of the bright spots. The Celtics are going to need stellar play from Theis as the postseason looms. He won’t always snag 20+ minutes a night (assuming Aron Baynes returns at full health and stays that way), but in an Eastern Conference that just got a whole lot more interesting at the trade deadline, Theis is a reminder that Boston’s depth will remain a strong competitive advantage.

So put a little balm on the sting of Rondo’s shot and dry off a bit after the torrential downpour of Laker makes. Watch Theis roast JaVale McGee on this driving dunk. Enjoy a nice Lance Stephenson business decision. Rinse. Repeat. Breath. And remember that the second-year center is part of a team that’s been at the top of the league since November 26.

Watch full Boston Celtics postgame coverage from our partners at CLNS Media via their YouTube Channel.