The Los Angeles Lakers return to the Staples Center to take on the Boston Celtics in Kobe Bryant’s last game versus their long-time rivals. Both teams are coming off of impressive wins, with the Lakers’ overtime thriller over the Miami Heat thanks to a last-second floater by Julius Randle, and the Boston Celtics able to overcome a deficit to hand the history-chasing Golden State Warriors their first home loss of the season.
Amidst the current distractions surrounding the purple and gold, the Lakers squad looked sharp on the defensive end in their last outing versus the Heat, forcing them to shoot just 17 percent from deep and forcing 18 turnovers in the process. However, they will need to be careful with the ball against a Celtics team that was able to force the Warriors to 22 turnovers.
The Celtics scratched first with a bucket from L.A. native Amir Johnson, while Kobe was able to answer back with a jumper of his own to tie the game at two. After a brief scoring drought, both teams started to heat up after the Celtics capitalized off a D’Angelo Russell turnover that sparked scores on their next four possessions. The Lakers were able to weather the storm with some buckets of their own after Jordan Clarkson found Russell for a back-door, reverse layup followed by a three-pointer to Kobe to cut the lead, 11-9. Boston was able to maintain their hot start to the game with conecutive scores including a three from Jae Crowder to extend the lead, 18-11. The purple and gold were able to stay in the game thanks to a medley of free-throws, mainly off Kobe iso plays to stay within single digits with three minutes left in the quarter. However, the Lakers were able to finish with the momentum as the young lineup locked down on defense to end the quarter down just 31-26.
The Lakers were able to carry that momentum into the second quarter on consecutive buckets from Tarik Black, the latter of which being an alley-oop from Russell to cut the lead to two. This time it was the Celtics who were able to maintain their lead thanks to a barrage of free-throws, capped by a dunk from Crowder to bring the score to 38-32. After checking in midway through the quarter, Kobe wasted no time making his presence felt with a deep three to cut the Celtic’ lead back down to three. Turnovers began to plague the Lakers on offense and Thomas was certainly able to take advantage by scoring 10 straight points to bolster their lead, 52-40. The Celtics continued to score at will and nearly went up by 20 before the Lakers re-captured some momentum by ending the half on an 8-0 run. Despite the late buckets, Boston was still holding on to a 57-48 lead.
The Celtics struck first to begin the half with a floater from Jared Sullinger, but the Lakers came back strong by going on an 11-0 run to tie the game at 59. Boston was able to regain some life on offense thanks to a layup from Even Turner, but the Lakers managed to keep their foot on the gas with a three from Kobe, followed by the and-one finish from Russell to extend their lead 68-65. Both teams continued to trade buckets through the third quarter but it was the Celtics who would enter the fourth with a narrow 77-75 lead.
Ryan Kelly got the Lakers going to start with a turnaround jumper, but Boston was able to answer back by scoring on their next three possessions to take an 84-77 lead. Turnovers and missed shots plagued both teams in the fourth until a Nance jumper was answered by a jumper from Cody Zeller to make it an 86-80 game. That sparked a 6-2 run by the Celtics as they took a comfortable 93-82 lead midway through the quarter. The purple and gold showed some signs of life with an and-one by Randle, followed by a three from Clarkson. But the Celtics managed to answer with scores of their own to maintain a 99-89 lead with three minutes to go. Although time wasn’t on their side, the Lakers went on a 7-0 run to make it a 104-100 game with 30 seconds left. However, despite the strong outing from a determined Kobe Bryant, the Celtics were able to escape with the 107-100 victory.