Friday, January 28 2022
LOS ANGELES, CA - December 07 2021: Boston Celtics forward Grant Williams (12) gaurds Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (6) in first half as the Los Angeles Lakers takes on the Boston Celtics at Staples Center on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times

These franchises, maybe more than any other two in the NBA, take the court with the ghosts of the pasts surrounding their iconic colors.

It’s why veteran public address announcer Lawrence Tanter stretched out the last syllable of “seventeen” when talking about the championship banners the Lakers were playing under Tuesday night at Staples Center.

That is, after all, the same number of titles won by the hated Boston Celtics — their green uniforms beautifully clashing against the Lakers’ purple and gold.

But since the Lakers assembled their roster full of yesterday’s biggest stars in an attempt to win tomorrow’s championship, the balance between who they were and what they need to be has been impossible to strike.

Like everything, getting LeBron James back to doing as much as what he’s used to will be the key. And having this version of Russell Westbrook?

That was always the hope.

“I just like the way we competed tonight on both sides of the floor. A lot of intensity,” James said, calling the 117-102 win maybe the Lakers’ best performance of the season.

The Lakers got the best versions of James and Westbrook, the veteran Lakers slicing through the Boston defense and bulldozing the Celtics if someone tried to stand his ground.

James set the tone early, keeping the Lakers from falling behind by a lot, and Westbrook dominated the third quarter, slamming home dunks, dancing after threes and dishing out assists.

James finished with 30 points, four rebounds, five assists and plenty of defensive energy and attention, the kind of game that made him seem like he was still at his peak instead of starting to fall from it. Westbrook had 24 points and 11 assists, helping the Lakers lead by as many as 20.

“The energy he plays with is always good for your group,” coach Frank Vogel said.

Even a bad start from Anthony Davis, in which the Lakers’ third star spent more time on the wrong end of Robert Williams III highlights than posting his own, turned in the second half. Davis finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds, and the Lakers outrebounded the Celtics 51-34.

It started offensively for the Lakers as James matched Jayson Tatum (34 points) shot for shot early, showing that he still could get to that place where it didn’t matter who stood between him and the basket. Tatum’s 14 quick points were outdone by 16 from James.

It was much needed for the Lakers, a team that traded its best and most consistent defensive players for more firepower. Still, scoring has been a challenge, the Lakers struggling to find the right spacing and right lineups to play with James, Davis and Westbrook.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis grabs a rebound from Boston Celtics guard Romeo Langford.Lakers forward Anthony Davis grabs a rebound from Boston Celtics guard Romeo Langford.

Lakers forward Anthony Davis grabs a rebound from Boston Celtics guard Romeo Langford in first half at Staples Center on Tuesday. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Defensively, things still have been a struggle, the Lakers reinserting Avery Bradley into the starting lineup for defense and the Celtics quickly scoring 20 points in the first seven minutes.

It was Tatum doing the damage, forced into an even bigger role with the Celtics’ No. 2 scorer, Jaylen Brown, still out nursing a hamstring injury. Like James, Tatum cooked whichever defender tried to stop him, too tall and too smooth for Bradley, Westbrook or Talen Horton-Tucker.

Needing him more off the ball than on it, the Lakers started the game hiding James on Al Horford and letting him be a key part of rotation. After the slow start, the Lakers’ defensive energy picked up, James squatting low to guard former teammate Dennis Schroder before forcing an offensive foul and getting the turnover.

With the ball headed the other way, James celebrated the stop, pointing toward the offensive end as he slowly walked down the floor into the next possession.

It’s a scene that’s not been too frequent, James keying a defensive stop. And it’s been not too frequent for a few reasons. One, James was playing in just his 13th game this season. And two, the defenders he’s starred around are mostly in different uniforms.

The results have been some ugly numbers for James. With him on the court, the Lakers’ defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) entering the game was a team-worst 112.3. Among all NBA players averaging more than 30 minutes, only nine were worse.

Two years ago, when the Lakers won the NBA title, James also was among the Lakers’ best-rated defenders.

Vogel largely dismissed those early numbers before the game.

“He’s giving his all. He’s been in and out of lineups. Like our team, had some strong nights and some nights where it wasn’t there,” Vogel said. “But he’s been great for us.”

Tuesday, James really was — playing with a pace, energy and spirit that the Lakers have captured in their championship past and are chasing to add title No. 18 to their future.

[embedded content]

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

Source: Yahoo Sports

Previous

Knicks' Tom Thibodeau on swapping Nerlens Noel, Mitchell Robinson in lineup: 'Both of those guys are invaluable to us'

Next

Tottenham suffer COVID-19 outbreak; Brighton vs Spurs reportedly in doubt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check Also

Pro Sports Media

Trending Now

Controversial Kane set to sign with Oilers

It will be Edmonton for Evander, indeed. According to multiple insider reports, controversial forward Evander Kane is expected to sign a one-year pro-rated contract for the remainder of the season with the Edmonton Oilers. The deal is worth $750k. It includes a signing bonus worth $625k and equates to a $2.1 million salary hit, Sportsnet’s […]

Read More

Scouting the Nationals’ top international signings Cristhian Vaquero, Armando Cruz

Scouting the Nats’ top international signings Vaquero, Cruz originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington The baseball offseason may have been forced to a halt due the ongoing lockout, but one winter event still managed to go on without a hitch: the start of the international signing period. Among the teams that made a splash were […]

Read More

United States men’s national soccer team Concacaf World Cup qualifier vs. El Salvador: Live stream and TV info, USMNT roster

The USMNT continues its quest to qualify for the 2022 World Cup when it takes on El Salvador at Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday night. Columbus has long been a comfortable home venue for the U.S. men’s national soccer team. The USMNT has a 8-1-2 record in World Cup qualifiers played in Columbus, […]

Read More