<![CDATA[The past two seasons–during which the Lakers have been the near-pinnacle of NBA garbage–have yielded two inexplicable losses against L.A. for the Celtics, one each year. So I'm always on edge during Lakers games, and not just for usual BEAT L.A. reasons. More like, "What dumb shit are the Cs gonna do to make this a trap game?" Fortunately, despite a few frustrating runs, Boston stayed gunning against a nonexistent Lakers D the whole game for a 115-95 win.
THE GAME FLOW
Wretched though they’ve been in most aspects, with a 19-42 record entering this contest, new coach Luke Walton has instituted a fine free-flowing offense for this Lakers squad. D’Angelo Russell did early damage on shots that shouldn’t have been open but were, and Julius Randle added on in the post. Walton, however, has yet to communicate what “defense” is. So the Cs looking jetlagged on D to start didn’t hurt them for long.
Amir Johnson had enough space and coverage to calmly take/make 3s–if that’s happening, the opposing team isn’t trying. Not one Laker made more than a cursory grab for Isaiah Thomas or Jae Crowder, allowing the latter to lead the way in scoring. As Brian Scalabrine said on the CSN broadcast: Long as the ball kept moving and didn’t stymie into ISOs, the Cs would get open in every possible way, and basically did. The scoreboard proved as much, as did the ease with which Boston played for the first half.
The Celtics had over 50 with 1.5 quarters played. L.A. scored almost as readily as the Cs…but they scored much less, because they are Bad. Russell and Nick Young–a.k.a. The NBA’s Own Pauly Shore–also hurt themselves with some truly, um…artisanal turnovers. As Q2 wound down, despite Lakers roleplayers like Larry Nance Jr. and Ivica Zubac making nice plays on both ends, Boston’s lead ballooned, reaching a 25-point margin at the half. BUT: I kept wondering if the other shoe would drop. It’d be so 2016/2017 to follow Wednesday’s massive win over the Cavaliers with a loss.
Not much changed as Q3 started. Every Cs starter reached double figures, including Johnson, who played one of his best 2016-17 all-around games. Speaking of starters, Avery Bradley didn’t need to play half as hard as he did with the Cs up by around 30 at the 8-minute mark, but it was nice to see–he showed none of the hesitance or meticulousness that recently hurt players sometimes (understandably) have.
The Marcus-Kelly-Jaylen bench mob didn’t contribute as many points, but defended well–the Lakers couldn’t get a damn thing going in transition due in part to their efforts. However, the Celtics’ overall defense remained inconsistent. Jordan Clarkson fueled a 20-point run near the third quarter’s end almost entirely by himself. A Boston lead at one point as high as 35 had dropped to 15 due to Clarkson (and other Lakers bench dudes you’ll never hear of) with a quarter left. (Now do you understand my paranoia about these being goddamn trap games???)
If not for the floor-diving-dervish madness of Marcus Smart, the Lakers would’ve scored a lot more than 3 points in the opening minutes of Q4. Clarkson and Nance were moving well and forcing turnovers, but fortunately couldn’t convert on the number of opportunities they got. Also, Jaylen Brown decided that now was CAN I TALK MY SHIT AGAIN?! time, at one point going on a 6-point solo run full of stupid wild plays (see below). And despite not contributing much early on, Terry Rozier assisted on some pivotal stops that abated any threat of a real Lakers run and sealed this game’s fate. Only some lazy Celtics fouls and resultant free throws delayed the inevitable.
In many ways, this was a great team win, with six Celtics in double figures, outstanding offense and whiplash passing–but trap-game losses happen when you get complacent, as Boston did in Q3. Fortunately, the Lakers are still Very Bad, and will remain as such for a few more years.
STUNT, BIG FELLA. DO YA DANCE. You know which play this is.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 4, 2017
I thought this was about to be a blown layup. Unbeknownst to me, I.T. asked Jaylen, “This gonna be a missed shot?” To which Jaylen screamed in reply, “NOT TODAY, SATAN:”
THIS ON REPEAT 🔁 https://t.co/SvNtcEzNlV
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) March 4, 2017
Al Horford: After a few lackluster games, Al bounced back with 17 points, 4 boards, 3 dimes and a 24 plus/minus.
Jaylen Brown: J.B. was a -6, but fuck it, the rest of his stats own: 16 points on 54 percent shooting and 8 rebounds, including 2 on the offensive glass.