Heading into Tuesday’s matchup with the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Luke Walton said his team needed to be the aggressor against the Eastern Conference’s top seed. Walton’s comment was in response to recalling Aron Baynes dominating in the first meeting.
While Baynes matched a career high with 21 points last November, he failed to score and was largely ineffective in the second matchup. Boston was still very much in control through the first two quarters, but that changed, and the Lakers came away with a 108-107 win.
The Celtics’ defensive pressure affected the Lakers, as they shot just 6-for-21 and missed all seven 3-point attempts in the first quarter. Sparked by Kyrie Irving, Boston went on a 21-6 run in the second quarter to lead by as many as 14 points.
However, the Lakers chipped away at their deficit to only trail by six at halftime, and that proved key in the third quarter.
Both teams went on respective runs coming out of the half and the defensive battle had the Lakers leading into the final 12 minutes. That’s when Irving and Kyle Kuzma each began to do their part in effort to leading their respective team to a win.
After Irving’s 3-point gave the Celtics a six-point lead, Kuzma responded with back-to-back shots from deep. Sensing he was the hot hand, the Lakers ran their offense through the rookie.
He delivered a behind-the-back pass to Larry Nance Jr. for a go-ahead slam dunk with just over six minutes remaining, then connected on another 3-pointer and shortly after drew a foul while shooting from deep.
Kuzma led the Lakers with 28 points, adding four rebounds and three assists. The 20-point game was Kuzma’s 15th this season, which is most by a Lakers rookie since Eddie Jones also had 15 in 1994-95.
Not to be forgotten, Julius Randle turned in a double-double with 14 points and 14 rebounds. He checked off each category late with an offensive rebound and slam dunk to provide the Lakers with some breathing room.
Josh Hart missed a pair of free throws with 20 seconds remaining, keeping the Lakers’ lead to just three points. An offensive foul on Randle on the second miss led to a pair of Marcus Smart free throws.
Jordan Clarkson cured the Lakers’ free-throw woes by making his two attempts. Boston’s layup made it a one-point game, which led to more free throws. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed both free throws but Smart couldn’t sink a game-winning 3-pointer.
Clarkson had another all-around effort, scoring 22 points on 8-for-17 shooting, to go along with five rebounds and four assists. Brandon Ingram only scored nine points, but added nine rebounds and his four assists tied with Clarkson for the team-high.
Irving’s stint on the bench in the fourth quarter may have cost the Celtics the game, though he continued to do his part and still had a game-high 33 points. After shooting the lights out in the first half, Smart cooled off and finished with 22 points.
Of those, 15 came in the first two quarters. Al Horford and Marcus Morris, each with 13 points, were the only other Celtics to score in double-figures.