BOSTON — Jayson Tatum took a Rui Hachimura bump to the chest atop the three-point arc that sent the Lakers wing to the floor. Tatum dove on top of him with the Celtics trailing, 77-71, after a lackluster first half effort that further incensed a crowd already angry with LeBron James and Anthony Davis missing a marquee game on the Lakers side. It became a fleeting moment of energy in a new low for Boston.
The Celtics arrived fully healthy aside from Luke Kornet (hamstring), but mostly didn’t show up in a first half highlighted by 11 sloppy turnovers.
“Win the game. That’s how I look at it. Our guys are available,” Joe Mazzulla said pre-game.
By the second half, down 14 points after a 5-0 LA flurry to close the second, Mazzulla resorted to pulling some of those available players, namely Kristaps Porzingis, Jaylen Brown and Jrue Holiday, three minutes into the third. He held a timeout until later, but used one quickly to begin the fourth when a positive 4-0 start to the final frame quickly unraveled into two uncontested transition run-outs from Taurean Prince and D’Angelo Russell. The Lakers mostly maintained their double-digit advantage and stunned Boston, 114-105.
Austin Reaves took over LA’s offensive burden alongside Russell, scoring 11 points in the first quarter and dropping three of the Lakers’ five threes. The shooting surge, 13-for-25 (52%), in the first half came as a rarity for an LA team that typically struggles to shoot. Boston didn’t give away the ball often in January, nine first quarter turnovers powering the Lakers’ early shot quality, but timely ones in the wins over the Pelicans and Pacers foreshadowed Thursday’s flood. Porzingis and Brown gave away the ball three times each in that opening frame to mark their worst performances of the season. They finished with six of Boston’s 15, Holiday adding four more.
Alongside Tatum’s tussle for the ball with Hachimura, his pair of threes, a layup and a feed to Sam Hauser as part of a bench shooting burst midway through the third successfully cut the Lakers’ 14-point lead to six with some hope that shooting regression would flip the result. LA never cooled down though, and six misses by the Celtics in the paint helped get the Lakers out on the run in a game where they outscored Boston 21-17 on the fast break. Entering the fourth, the Celtics cut only four points off the lead to the loud disapproval of fans.
The Lakers only gave Boston three free throw attempts midway through the fourth after the Celtics’ 13th turnover, courtesy of Porzingis, turned into a Hachimura three as LA kept working the ball inside and out. Boston struggled to match up on the break and on offense continued to make bad rim reads, one by Brown seemingly breaking the free throw shooting slump before Darvin Ham successfully challenged and turned Hachimura’s foul at the rim into another Brown miss. He finished 4-for-12 (0-3 3PT) on the night the NBA announced him as an all-star reserve, his third appearance. The Lakers stayed ahead by 10.
Reaves reached 30 points with a pull-up jumper moments later while Russell hit 14 assists with a feed to Hachimura for three behind another slow Boston rotation. Russell and Holiday jarred as the calls went against Boston again, Reaves tossing in another bucket at the free throw line to build a 26-7 advantage there and the Celtics dropped his second miss out-of-bounds. The Lakers scored on three of the next four possessions and Mazzulla saw enough, emptying his bench down by 13 points with 2:01 remaining.