In what was one of the wildest Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers meetings in recent memory, the Celtics pulled everything — the good, the bad, and the ugly — out of their hat Tuesday. And it all worked out.
The Celtics should never have lost this one. Then they never should have won it. In the end, Celtics star Jayson Tatum finished with 44 points and the latest version of the Celtics. vs. Lakers rivalry went to overtime, with the Celtics escaping with a 122-118 victory.
The Boston Celtics somehow escaped with a win over the Lakers
It should never have been this close. The Celtics held a 20-point lead with 6:57 left in the third quarter. They led 88-74 with 1:14 left in the quarter. Then it all fell apart for Boston.
The Celtics went better than five minutes without scoring as the Lakers went on a 16-0 run during that stretch to take a 92-88 lead. With 8:04 left to play, Tatum ended the Boston drought with a layup to make it 92-90.
The Lakers weren’t done. They extended the lead to 106-93 lead with less than four minutes to play before Boston staged an impressive rally. Boston clawed its way to within five points (110-105) on a basket by Marcus Smart, and then the Celtics held the Lakers scoreless the rest of regulation.
With his team ahead 110-108, Anthony Davis missed two free throws with 28 seconds remaining before Tatum tied the game with 17 seconds left. LeBron James missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.
In the extra session, Celtics guard Jaylen Brown put the game out of reach with a three-pointer with 53 seconds left that gave the Celtics a 122-114 lead.
The Celtics flexed their maturity muscles against the Lakers
This isn’t a game the Celtics would have won at this time last year. A year ago, the Celtics were 14-15 through 29 games. They struggled to find an identity under first-year coach Ime Udoka.
Blown leads were the norm, but they never recovered as they did Tuesday night. The Celtics were playing their final game of a six-game road trip. It was the second leg of a back-to-back. This time, they dug deep and rallied from 13 down in the final 3:40 to send it to overtime, where they took charge.
Last year, the Celtics found themselves in mid-January. This year, they are a different team. They’re more mature, and they’re highly motivated to get back to the NBA Finals and have been since the season opener. The Celtics finished the road trip 4-2 and now head back home with the best record in the NBA at 22-7.
Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said Tatum’s game-tying shot in regulation set the tone for overtime.
“I saw a great player make a great shot and a guy that wanted the moment,” Mazzulla said postgame, per NBC Sports Boston. “I thought that sparked us for overtime, him embracing that moment, and I thought our team fed off it. Our team kind of embraced the moment for the rest of overtime.”