The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are each other’s greatest all-time rivals, making every matchup, every season, among the most notable circled on their respective calendars — especially on Christmas Day.

Those implications will always follow each organization, although not every meeting will live up to the always-cherished hype between Boston and LA. But that wasn’t the case this holiday season. This time, the Celtics and Lakers were deservingly perceived as a must-watch matchup and that’s exactly what they were out on the West Coast.

The Celtics rolled in with back-to-back 140-plus-point offensive outpours amid their four-game road trip. They responded to a gut-punching overtime loss to the Golden State Warriors to begin the trip and had the perfect chance to give Boston a much-wanted Christmas Day gift, which they did in defeating the Lakers, 126-115, to win a third straight contest.

Here are four ways Boston and LA lived up to the holiday hype:

Story continues below advertisement

4) Payton Pritchard caught fire and caught Lakers snoozing
There wasn’t a whole lot of bench production, but the majority of it came from Pritchard.

In the second quarter, as the Lakers played catch-up and did so effectively, Pritchard supplied the Celtics with 10 points, shooting 4-of-5 from the field through the frame. And on one of Pritchard’s two baskets inside, the undersized guard caught Lakers star LeBron James sleeping on a defensive assignment, giving Pritchard an open and easy lane to the basket.

    What do you think?  Leave a comment.

Pritchard will always have his moments, but there’s an added sweetener for the Celtics when those moments come in marquee matchups. Christmas Day just served as perfect timing considering how Pritchard performed throughout the road trip.

The 25-year-old averaged 12.5 points while shooting 50% from the field and 33.3% from beyond the arc, playing over 21 minutes each game.

Story continues below advertisement

3) Second-quarter Lakers comeback bid
It wouldn’t be a classic Celtics-Lakers duel if there wasn’t at least a nail-biting moment or two, right?

The Celtics assembled a lead as high as 18 points, but they didn’t preserve it.

Scoring was a breeze for Boston early on. There was not a single ounce of defensive urgency from the Lakers and the Celtics exposed it, taking a 30-12 lead with 3:57 left in the first quarter. The Celtics made the right reads to find the best quality shot attempt and exploit multiple gaping holes in Los Angeles’ defense, but the moment that approach was abandoned, the Lakers were handed an inadvertent momentum swing.

What looked to be a third consecutive trot to the finish line in which Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown could sit courtside next to Jack Nicholson with their feet kicked up became a contest. The Lakers weren’t willing to bow easily, outscoring Boston 34-26 in the second quarter to set a 58-57 Celtics lead before the third quarter. It was too easy to identify the Celtics’ issue: an unhealthy hunger for outside shots where they aren’t needed.

Story continues below advertisement

Boston tossed up 11 shots in the second quarter and drained only three, generating just 10 points from inside the paint. Granted, the first quarter wasn’t any prettier — they shot 3-of-12 from the outside — but the Celtics did their dirty work and battled inside.

That issue isn’t new, but once again, it added another thrilling factor that could’ve easily been avoided. In other words, a win for the fans and viewers.

2) LeBron James flexed fifth-year athleticism in Year 21
Regardless of the holiday, team, or season, King James is King James.

Very few athletes can maintain the standard that James has throughout his multi-decade-long career, and as the Celtics know, that has yet to change. It’s made James’ ongoing rivalry with Boston one of the NBA’s most thrilling storylines from Cleveland to Miami to Cleveland again, and now in Los Angeles with the Lakers, the ultimate Celtics rival.

Story continues below advertisement

Covered up in a shooting foul charged to Tauren Price with 1:32 minutes left before halftime was James catching up to Jayson Tatum on a fastbreak. Boston’s 25-year-old star led the open lane, and James, at 38 years old, was right behind him, catching Tatum for a highlight-reel-worthy chase-down block that completely went to waste.

James, as always, was a difficult defensive assignment, fighting through Neemias Queta for drives to the basket, finding teammates for quality feeds and keeping Los Angeles within striking distance.

1) Boston’s starting lineup proved why it’s top-notch
Having Kristaps Porzingis back and healthy, the Celtics had their full starting lineup ready to go, and it only showcased the stellar offseason work done by president of basketball operations Brad Stevens.

Porzingis, fresh off a one-game absence due to an ankle injury, scored a team-leading 28 points on 11-of-19 shooting from the field with 11 rebounds and two blocks. That, unlike most No. 4 options across the NBA, gives the Celtics a luxury-like advantage in providing flexibility on both ends of the floor which creates a matchup issue for any opponent.

Story continues below advertisement

It’s even more difficult when five other Celtics — Tatum, Brown, Jrue Holiday, Derrick White and Pritchard — score in double figures.

Boston wasn’t able to reach the 140-point mark for a third consecutive time, but that’s not an essential component for the unit to flourish. The Celtics took advantage of the matchups in place and executed a high level of ball movement, recording their third-straight 30-plus assists performance for the first time since the 2018-19 season.

“When we play the right way and we play with pace, it’s very hard to guard us,” Tatum said, per ESPN’s postgame coverage. “We just make the right reads, get inside the paint and find open guys. We all can shoot and make plays so it’s easy to play with these guys.”

Boston’s starting lineup scored 108 of the team’s 126 total points.

Story continues below advertisement

Featured image via Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports Images