The Los Angeles Lakers continued their road trip with a game against the rival Boston Celtics on Friday night, welcoming LeBron James back to the lineup after an absence of two weeks due to an abdominal injury.
Unfortunately though, getting James back in the lineup did not make much of a difference as the Lakers still fell 130-108 to drop to 8-9 on the season.
Coming off a rough game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Anthony Davis was ultra-aggressive early in this one, scoring the Lakers’ first six points. Avery Bradley then knocked down a three and Talen Horton-Tucker found James for a monstrous dunk, giving L.A. an early 11-5 with the Lakers’ biggest star looking healthy in his return.
Davis’ aggression continued out of the timeout, going to the basket at will and either scoring or getting fouled. Couple that with a deep three by James and the Lakers extended their lead to 18-9, forcing a second early timeout by Boston.
Malik Monk immediately made his presence felt off the bench by knocking down a pair of threes to stop a 9-0 Celtics run, and the Lakers eventually led 38-30 after one of their best offensive quarters of the season. Davis, who as previously mentioned came out aggressive, led the way with 15 points in the quarter.
The Lakers’ sloppy play, combined with strong play from Dennis Schroder against his former team, got the Celtics back in it to start the second, cutting the deficit to just one.
Jayson Tatum was quiet to start as he picked up two early fouls, but he was able to get going in the second quarter with back-to-back layups and a three to give the Celtics a three-point lead.
Thankfully, Carmelo Anthony was able to quiet the Boston crowd by making a pair of threes of his own. Malik Monk then gave the Lakers the lead back with a thunderous dunk in transition, leading to a Celtics timeout.
James helped lead a strong close to the half for the Lakers and they went into the locker room leading 61-60.
The Lakers have struggled in third quarters all season long, so it came as no surprise when the Celtics started off the second half on an 8-0 run to take their biggest lead of the game.
With the Lakers’ deficit ballooning all the way to 14, this game was in danger of getting away from them. Davis helped them stay in it with strong two-way play to close the quarter, although L.A. still trailing 93-82 through three quarters after an awful third frame.
As the Lakers continued to struggle to get stops defensively, it made it very difficult to cut into their deficit in the fourth. And even when they did get stops, their smaller lineups were often not able to get a rebound, giving the Celtics second-chance opportunities.
Tatum drilled a three with five minutes left to extend the Celtics’ lead to 17, their largest of the game, effectively putting it out of reach with the Lakers clearing out their bench.
In his return, James was a bright spot for the Lakers as he finished with 23 points and six rebounds on 10-of-16 shooting while Davis added 31 points of his own in the loss.
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