The Boston Celtics flew across the country on the heels of three straight losses, and it didn’t get much better Tuesday night at Staples Center.
Boston held an eight-point halftime lead over a Los Angeles Lakers team without rookie Lonzo Ball (knee), but the Celtics were unable to hold off the Lakers’ other rookie: Kyle Kuzma.
Kuzma torched Boston for 17 points in the fourth quarter to lead L.A. to a 108-107, come-from-behind win. The Celtics never quit, as they cut the lead to one with seven seconds to play, but Marcus Smart missed a game-winning shot at the buzzer to send the Staples Center crowd home happy.
Kyrie Irving (33 points) and Smart (22 points) led the C’s , but it wasn’t enough to overcome the red-hot Lakers, led by Kuzma (28 points) and Jordan Clarkson (22 points).
With the loss, the Celtics fell to 34-14, while the Lakers improved to 18-29.
Here’s how it all went down:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford
C: Aron Baynes
Both teams lacked rhythm in the first quarter. The Celtics shot just 9-for-25 (36 percent) in the opening frame, but that dwarfed the Lakers’ pitiful 6-for-21 effort (28.6 percent). Boston led 21-15 after the first frame, as Brown and Smart led the C’s with five points each in the quarter. Brook Lopez paced the Lakers with five points of his own.
Brown opened the Celtics’ scoring with this massive dunk:
The Lakers took the lead early in the second quarter after Kuzma scored eight quick points. But the C’s, and Smart in particular, began to assert their will toward the end of the quarter. The streaky bench guard poured in 10 points in the stanza to give him 15 in the half.
Boston led by 13 with a little over a minute to go in the half, but Julius Randle, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Clarkson helped L.A. close the quarter on a 6-0 run to cut the Celtics’ lead to 53-45 at the break.
Smart led all scorers at half with 15, while Irving added 13 and Marcus Morris chipped in with 11. Clarkson led the Lakers with 14 points in the half.
L.A. MAKES A PUSH
The Lakers kept their foot on the gas to enter the third, opening the second half on a 16-7 run. Randle dominated the Boston bigs in the quarter, consistently bullying Horford, Baynes and Morris on the block. After L.A. took a 62-60 lead, the teams traded buckets until the end of the frame, when two Larry Nance Jr. free throws gave the Lakers a 76-74 lead.
L.A. outscored the Celtics 31-21 in the stanza. Irving led all scorers with 21 after three, while Clarkson paced the Lakers 16.
Boston opened the fourth on an 11-4 run to take a five-point lead, but after that, it was all Kuzma.
The Lakers rookie exploded for 17 points in the fourth quarter. Kuzma hit back-to-back 3-pointers to pull his team within one at 89-88. Then he found Nance with a slick behind-the-back pass to give L.A. a one-point lead.
After a Horford jumper gave Boston a 91-90 lead, Kuzma splashed a trey, knocked down two free throws and then hit a floater to give the Lakers a 97-91 lead.
Boston continued to battle, as they cut the lead to one with seven seconds, but Smart’s last-second 3-pointer clanged off the rim to seal the C’s fate.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME
What a find.
The Celtics will take the floor again at Staples Center on Wednesday night when they face the Los Angeles Clippers. Tip-off is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. ET.
Thumbnail photo via Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images