The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers don’t tend to disappoint in their yearly matchups. On Saturday primetime, the theatrics were alive and well, though they didn’t land in Boston’s favor, as they fell to the Lakers by a single point in the final seconds, 96-95.
Despite falling behind as many as 10 points in the second quarter Boston entered halftime down just three points in a battle of dynamic duos. LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 28 points on 11-of-22 shooting through the first 24 minutes, but Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown kept pace with a combined 29 points of their own on 12-of-18 shooting.
A 29-19 third-quarter edge put the Celtics ahead by seven heading into the final quarter. Despite LA’s imposing frontcourt, Boston built that edge by outscoring the Lakers 20-4 in the paint in the third quarter.
Not two minutes into the fourth, the Celtics feared the worse when Marcus Smart went to the hardwood clutching his left leg, unable to put weight as he was carried off the court. Smart would not return with what was initially diagnosed with a calf strain, though he will undergo an MRI on Sunday.
A Kemba Walker steal with under 20 seconds left gave the Celtics a chance down only one. But Walker missed his 11 shot in 12 attempts and a Daniel Theis putback attempt fell short to extend Boston’s losing streak to two games.
Tatum and Brown contributed 58 of Boston’s 95 points. No other Celtic scored more than 14 and just two other players scored in double figured — Theis and Robert Williams III off the bench.
For the Lakers, Davis had 27, though Boston’s defense limited him to just 11-of-25 shooting. James struggled with his shot as well, going 7-of-17 for 21 points.
This was a one-game stop back home for the Celtics after two games on the road. Now, they’ll head out on a five-game Westcoast trip, with Golden State the first stop on Tuesday on TNT.