Final, Lakers 113-99: At least Jerry Buss would be proud. On a night when the Lakers honored their dearly departed former owner, they left the Celtics in their dust to score a victory in the latest edition of this long rivalry.
Dwight Howard had 24 points and 12 rebounds in a dominant performance while Earl Clark provided a double-double of 14 points and 16 rebounds. Paul Pierce led the Celtics with 26 points, but only three of those came after halftime. Courtney Lee cracked 20 points.
For the Celtics, this game was lost in the trenches. They were outscored 54-30 in the paint and outrebounded 49-34. They never got to the line because they never got to the hoop, where most shooting fouls are drawn.
The trade deadline is less than 15 hours away. We shall see what Danny Ainge has in store for the Celts.
Fourth quarter, 2:50, Lakers 108-92: Put Williams in the score book. The newly signed Celtic hit the first shot he took and now has two points, two rebounds and two assists. Deuces are wild.
Fourth quarter, 5:51, Lakers 104-88: This Howard guy is pretty good, haters.
Howard might never be the public’s darling, but the dude can play. He is downright dominant on the glass and in the paint on defense, and he is immovable on the block when he wants to be. He very much wants to be against the Celtics. With almost six minutes left in the game, he has 24 points and 12 rebounds, and that does not even begin to explain his impact on this game.
Fourth quarter, 8:52, Lakers 99-80: Williams’ debut looked about like one would expect. Without any real practice time under his belt, Williams just sort of wandered around the perimeter and swung the ball around when necessary during his five minutes on the court.
Still, he did not do anything embarrassing and he enabled Bradley and Lee to get a few minutes’ rest. Until he gets a bit more time with the club, that is really all the Celtics can ask of Williams.
End of third quarter, Lakers 90-76: Thanks to a crazy banked-in tip by Bradley, the Celtics have this down to a manageable deficit, sort of. This could be the final 12 minutes in green for some members of the team, so they may want to make it count.
Instead of talking about anybody’s offensive stats, we should look at their defensive work. And it sure does need a lot of work. All of Boston’s defensive rotations are slow and they are not helping the helper the way they did before the All-Star break. Nash and Bryant will exploit those deficiencies all night if the Celtics keep it up.
Third quarter, 2:50, Lakers 85-67: Yup, definitely getting away from them.
By digging deep, the Celtics were able to cut into the Lakers’ lead — by a whole five points. The 19-point advantage was whittled down to 14 before the Lakers pushed back with a couple of tricky shots by Jamison.
The Celtics continue to fall short at the foul line, when they even get there at all. They are 2-for-7 from the stripe, and there is no blaming the refs for the 20-7 free throw disparity in favor of the Lakers. The Celtics simply are not attacking the basket to give the officials any reason to send them to the line.
Third quarter, 7:53, Lakers 75-57: This one is getting away from the Celtics quickly. Less than five minutes into the second half, the Celtics have already watched their deficit double and have yet to really have a good defensive possession. Bryant is having his way. He abused Lee on a clear out for a fade-away jumper and he tossed an over the shoulder pass from the left block to a flashing Clark for the dunk.
So, blow it up?
Halftime, Lakers 64-55: If this is Pierce’s last game as a Celtic, he is determined to go out in style. Pierce may be having one of those games where he simply refuses to lose. Still, even that might not be enough for Boston.
Pierce has 23 points on 15 shots at the break and is 4-for-7 from downtown. Nobody else has more than eight points for Boston, although Garnett, Bradley and Lee are doing yeoman’s work defending Howard, Nash and Bryant, respectively.
There is no hope of stopping those three Lakers stars, though. There is only hope of containing them. The star-studded trio has 41 points combined at halftime with Metta World Peace chipping in another 10.
The Celtics need to find a way to generate some sort of post presence if they hope to win this game. They are getting creamed on the boards 28-19 and have been outscored by 10 points in the paint.
Second quarter, 5:44, Lakers 47-39: The Celtics are having to work really, really hard down low. That goes for both ends, where Green already has three fouls trying to help out Garnett on defense and where the Celtics are tentative about shooting with the shot-blocking machine named Howard nearby.
The Lakers are outrebounding the Celtics 25-16 and worst of all for Boston, the Celtics have stopped attacking the rim. Garnett and Green played hot potato instead of finishing at the rim. Their passiveness really explains their 14-4 deficit in the free throw margin.
Second quarter, 8:41, Lakers 41-33: After calling this game tight in the first half with 12 fouls, the officials have wisely let the teams play in the second quarter. If they try to call things too tightly, there might not be anybody left by the middle of the third quarter.
Green and Lee, energy players who feed off a free-wheeling style, made several small plays to keep the ball alive and enable Boston to score three straight buckets. Other than Lee’s tough reverse layup, their work will not show up in the box score, but keeping the ball alive was crucial to giving Pierce and Garnett chances to score the other four points in the 6-0 run.
End of first quarter, Lakers 36-27: Most Celtics fans will never admit it, but they have to have some begrudging respect for Bryant, deep down. The guy is just too good.
Bryant showed off not just his skill, but his hustle when he stayed alert and caught a blocked shot by Earl Clark in mid-air and banked it home in one motion. Shortly after he split a pair of free throws — giving the ball an annoyed stare-down when it bobbled out of the rim on his miss — to give L.A. its largest lead of the game at 11 points.
Foul trouble may be trouble for the Celtics given their lack of depth, and it is already worth watching. Lee and Green picked up a pair of fouls each while trying to check Bryant in the first quarter. Somebody tell Williams to get warmed up.
First quarter, 2:41, Lakers 27-21: Whoever says Howard has no offensive post game has no clue what they are talking about. True, he is no Hakeem Olajuwon, but the 6-foot-11, 240-pound behemoth has an array of physical moves that make him close to unguardable on the nail.
Howard is making every defender who comes his way look silly with his strength and speed, hitting five of the six shots he has taken. He also has six boards already, more than Boston’s entire team.
First quarter, 6:41, Lakers 16-15: Due to the danger Howard presents on the block, Garnett needs to front the Lakers’ center at every opportunity. While this may deny the Lakers a good look at a post-entry pass, it can lead to easy putback attempts for Howard when his teammates miss.
Howard, who has been silent for most of the opening minutes, got on a roll by capitalizing on Garnett’s adjustments. He converted a putback layup to push L.A. ahead and give him eight points, tying Pierce for the game high so far.
10:13 p.m.: The big question facing the Celtics, which they have not really answered yet, is not whether they can win without Rondo or rebound without Sullinger. They have proved they can. What they still need to prove is that they can do those things on the road.
During the Celtics’ recent run of eight wins in nine games, seven of those wins came at home. They dropped a close decision in Charlotte toward the end of that stretch, then suffered another close loss in Denver on Tuesday. Only one of their previous eight wins came away from TD Garden — and that was in Toronto.
9:50 p.m.: The Terrence Williams era is set to begin. The 25-year-old swingman, who had been out of the NBA before the Celtics came calling earlier this week, is expected to be in uniform and available to play for the Celtics.
Williams has not had much exposure to Boston’s offensive or defensive systems, so it probably will not be the prettiest thing if he does have to play. Still, it should give Doc Rivers some comfort to know that there is another body available, if needed.
9:10 p.m.: If this is the last game in green for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, at least Celtics fans can say they got to see them one last time in the NBA’s most historic rivalry.
Pierce and Garnett will suit up Wednesday without any assurance of what awaits them Thursday. That is when the trade deadline arrives, with all the wildness that comes with it.
In the meantime, expect this game to be just as cutthroat as all the matchups before it. The Lakers are wounded, currently sit outside of the playoff picture and cannot seem to go a day without some controversy. Even if Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are not best buds, the team insists that the big man will not be traded, so they might as well learn to get along.
The projected starters appear below.
Metta World Peace
8 a.m. ET: The return to games that matter is testing the Celtics. Coming off a pre-All-Star break run of eight wins in nine games, the Celtics face a West Coast back-to-back that threatens to expose their lack of depth.
The Celtics (28-25) ran out of energy in Tuesday’s track meet in Denver, and after a quick turnaround they take on the mercurial Lakers (25-29). Kobe Bryant’s club has lost three of its last five and is well-rested. Nobody other than Bryant or Dwight Howard has played since Thursday, while the Celtics will still be recuperating from their exposure to the Rocky Mountain air.
This could be the last look at some of these players in a Celtics uniform, even if team president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has cautioned against expecting a big move.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 10:30 p.m. ET.
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