LeBron James, Lakers Hang on to Beat Celtics Despite Jayson Tatum's 41 Points

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2020

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 23: LeBron James #23 of the Los Angeles Lakers reacts to a play during the game against the Boston Celtics on February 23, 2020 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics 114-112 on Sunday in the latest installment of their legendary rivalry.

Jaylen Brown hit a three-pointer with one minute, 17 seconds remaining to put the Celtics ahead 110-108, but LeBron James gave the Lakers a 111-110 lead with 30.4 seconds left on the clock.

ESPN @espn

LeBron smirked, then hit the CLUTCH fadeaway 💪 https://t.co/f8s8XQeY94

Jayson Tatum had an opportunity to put the Celtics ahead in the final seconds but committed an offensive foul before he got his three-point attempt up.

The Lakers are now riding a five-game winning streak, and their lead on the second-place Denver Nuggets could swell to six games should the Nuggets fall to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night.

Boston beat Minnesota on Friday despite missing All-Star point guard Kemba Walker, who had his knee drained to help address a lingering issue. The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Celtics over the next week, so Walker's absence could become a bigger problem for head coach Brad Stevens.

With the Lakers' victory, Boston and Los Angeles have split their season series for the third straight season and fourth time in the last five years.


Notable Performers

Jayson Tatum, PF, Celtics: 41 points, five rebounds, two blocks, one steal

Daniel Theis, C, Celtics: 16 points, nine rebounds

Jaylen Brown, SG, Celtics: 20 points, six rebounds, three steals, one block

LeBron James, SF, Lakers: 29 points, nine assists, eight rebounds

Anthony Davis, PF, Lakers: 32 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, two blocks


LeBron, AD Help Lakers Avenge Lopsided Loss

The Celtics handed the Lakers their biggest defeat of the season when they won 139-107 on Jan. 20. 

"Worst loss of the season for us," Anthony Davis said, per Harrison Faigen of SB Nation's Silver Screen & Roll. "We didn't play our best at all, so we remember that for sure. I'm pretty sure they're thinking, 'We beat them guys by about 40.' They're thinking about that, and we're obviously thinking about it, so we're going to come out a little different."

Those weren't empty words from Davis as he and James accounted for more than half of the Lakers' scoring.

Los Angeles Lakers @Lakers

Welcome to the Show 🎬 https://t.co/oO9PUrYbYM


LBJ stays with it and goes glass! @celtics 96 @Lakers 99 📺: #NBAonABC https://t.co/A2V9h1J37j


Ball. Movement. 🔑 https://t.co/JJjatse6iR

As much as he contributed, LeBron's 7-of-12 showing from the charity stripe will likely be a focus for fans after the game. He missed the second of two free throws that would've tied the game with 37.7 seconds left, making up for it with his turnaround moments later.

Ryan Ward @RyanWardLA

BIG free throws for LeBron right here. He's struggled from the line all season long. 69.7% from the charity stripe.

Dave DuFour @DaveDuFourNBA

I need a 30 for 30 on LeBron's free throws.

Rajon Rondo has played his old team plenty of times already, but the veteran guard appeared to savor facing off against the Celtics. Rondo was a nuisance on defense, picking up five steals, and helped facilitate the Lakers offense with five assists.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

That Rondo to AD pick and roll 🎬 (via @NBAUK) https://t.co/REiZ36hvPi

Laker Film Room @LakerFilmRoom

This has been Rondo's best defensive game of the season, and possibly of his Lakers tenure.

Silver Screen & Roll @LakersSBN

If this is Playoff Rondo, the Lakers might not need another point guard.

Marc D'Amico @Marc_DAmico

Rondo has been awesome today for the Lakers.

Rondo wasn't the only Lakers reserve to come up big, as Kyle Kuzma and Dwight Howard chipped in 16 and 10 points, respectively.


Jayson Tatum Does Best to Carry Short-Handed Celtics

After Kyrie Irving missed 37 combined games in his two years with the team, the bulk of Boston's roster is used to playing without its normal point guard. But Walker's absence puts Boston at an obvious disadvantage, and it no longer has the luxury of Al Horford inside to help shoulder some of the scoring burden.

Tatum appeared to take it upon himself to carry the Celtics offense, flashing the all-around game that is making him such a dynamic player in his third season.

Boston Celtics @celtics

can't leave an All-Star wide open ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ https://t.co/rf2pfNP5K1

Boston Celtics @celtics

👀 https://t.co/lNXz1gpChr


💥 TATUM WITH AUTHORITY! 💥 @celtics 69 @Lakers 62 25 PTS for the BOS forward on ABC https://t.co/8z4FFUVeJd


The smooth spin move and tough finish from Jayson Tatum! @celtics 37 @Lakers 41 📺: #NBAonABC https://t.co/SIPSJQd9NU

In a game that featured two of the 10 best players in the NBA, Tatum stood out.

Cassidy Hubbarth @CassidyHubbarth

I don’t know who needs to hear this but....Jayson Tatum is a serious problem.

Adam Himmelsbach @AdamHimmelsbach

Tatum's been the best player on the floor, on a floor that includes LeBron and AD, and it hasn't been close.

As great as Tatum performed, Sunday underscored what will be an issue for the Celtics until Walker returns. If opponents can successfully get the ball out of Tatum's hands, then the team doesn't have another true go-to option.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel had Los Angeles double-team the 2019-20 All-Star more frequently in the second half, which succeeded in throwing Boston out of rhythm.

Tom Westerholm @Tom_NBA

wrote in my preview that the Lakers would probably try blitzing Tatum in particular but that it would open up other opportunities for other Celtics so … I was half right? https://t.co/0q6oM36zdM

Jay King @ByJayKing

Easier to send hard double teams at Tatum with the lack of shooting on the Celtics bench. Good health and playoff rotations will minimize the issue to an extent, but teams will help hard off some of Boston’s second-unit options come playoff time.

Especially considering Walker's knee injury has persisted for most of the year, it raises a few more questions regarding the front office's decision to stand pat at the trade deadline.

General manager Danny Ainge didn't need to drastically reshuffle the roster, but an incremental move or two could've left Boston better equipped to go toe-to-toe with the NBA's top title contenders.


What's Next?

The Lakers host the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday before embarking on a three-game road trip. The Celtics head to the Pacific Northwest on Tuesday for a matchup with the Portland Trail Blazers, the first half of a back-to-back that takes them to Utah on Wednesday.


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