The Boston Celtics scored their most points in nearly a month Friday night, drumming the visiting Los Angeles Lakers 130-108.
The Lakers welcomed LeBron James back for the first time in eight games after he had sustained an abdominal injury, and although the “King” finished with 23 points and six rebounds, he was out-dueled by Jayson Tatum’s 37 and 11.
Boston’s backcourt stepped up in a huge way as well, getting a season-high 22 points from Marcus Smart and 21 from Dennis Schroder, a member of last year’s Lakers team. Josh Richardson pitched in 15 points off the bench, while Anthony Davis led the visitors with 31 points.
Back on Track
Friday’s victory was an important one for a Celtics team that is still operating without All-Star Jaylen Brown and the vastly improved Robert Williams. Despite being without two of their primary rebounders, the C’s won the battle of the boards 51-33 and did not let anyone on LA’s roster exceed six rebounds.
The home team also did a tremendous job getting to the line, taking 38 free throws to the Lakers’ 24. Every active player on the roster finished with a positive +/-, and Boston finally played like the championship contender that it has the potential to be.
Although LA finished with 108 points, they only scored 70 in the final three quarters and did not exceed 26 in any of these; Boston’s guards and wings did a tremendous job of hounding the Lakers’ ball handlers on the perimeter and forcing them into passes they did not want to make.
Around the League
Following the rivalry win, Boston is now the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference and level with the Milwaukee Bucks with an 8-8 record. The highly anticipated return of Jaylen Brown should help propel them into a fight for a top-six seed, though they showed a tremendous amount of character even without him.
For starters, both of the starting guards did a great job distributing the ball, and the team finished shooting 50% on field goals and 81.6% at the charity stripe. Al Horford also jumped back into gear, scoring 18 points, his second-most of the season.
One of Boston’s most glaring issues has been their inability to play together, but there were no signs of that Friday night. There was an emphasis on digging in on defense, gang rebounding, and moving the ball to the open man. Without putting too much stock into one game, it is still safe to say that this is the best that Boston has looked for 48 consecutive minutes this season.
Once Brown and Williams return, the Celtics can truly start to be judged. Still, knocking off LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook on a national broadcast is encouraging.
Boston’s return to the court will come Saturday evening when they take on the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are 6-9 but show impressive determination late into games. If the Celtics can put together a winning streak before their stars get back, they will have proven that their early-season struggles are no longer of any concern.