The storied rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics has seen better days. Just 4 years removed from their epic 7 game rematch in the NBA Finals, both teams are looking up in the standings in their respective conferences, hoping for the upcoming draft for immediate help.This is only the second season, since the Lakers moved to Los Angeles, in which both teams had losing records (1993-1994). But anytime these two matchup, compelling basketball ensues.
In dramatic fashion the Lakers made a late surge in the fourth quarter to escape Boston with a much needed win, to start a long 7 game road trip, winning 107-104 at the TD Garden.
In the first quarter, Pau Gasol started in rythym with 8 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Kendall Marshall also started off strong with 4 points and 3 assists. The action was mostly nip and tuck with Lakers leading 25-23, after the 1st.
In the second, the turnovers that have hurt the Lakers all season reared their ugly head, with 8 in the period. The Celtic’s Phil Pressey disrupted the Lakers with steals, assists and a three pointer that allowed Boston to take a 38-32 lead at the 7:39 mark. Manny Harris, a shooting guard recently called up from the L.A. Defenders, scored on a driving layup in his first taste of game action with the team. Pau Gasol continued his hot play by scoring 7 points down the stretch to keep the Lakers close. The Celtics led 58-52 at the half.
The Lakers broke the recent of trend of having disastrous third quarters mostly by hitting 4 three pointers in the period, and played the Celtics to a standstill, trailing 82-76 after the 3rd. Center Kelly Olynyk had it going, scoring on array of pull up jumpers and dribble drives. Young bigs have consistently gone at Gasol offensively this season, but Gasol was equally up to the task and gave as good as he got.
In the fourth, what was initially a matchup between two struggling teams turned into a typical Lakers-Celtics game, full of intensity. There were even chants of “Beat La” from the Boston faithful as the game tightened in crunch time. Ryan Kelly scored 12 points in the fourth and continued his upward trajectory. Kelly made threes, hit the offensive glass and made heady defensive plays. He might be the ‘stretch four’ the Lakers’ have been looking for this season. With increased playing time Kelly’s confidence has grown to the point where he was consistently looking for his shot.
The Celtics looked like they would run away and hide, pulling away 104-92 with just 4:11 to go, but two free throws by Kelly and 3 consecutive three pointers by Wes Johnson, Jodie Meeks, and Kendall Marshall brought the Lakers back from the brink to take a 105-104 lead with 1:08 remaining in regulation. Kelly finished off the best night of his career with two free throws to ice the game. Pau Gasol had 24 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 assists. Kendall Marshall continued his strong play with 19 points and 14 assists. Ryan Kelly had a career high 20 points and displayed the poise of a veteran down the stretch. Jodie Meeks scored 17 points with 7 rebounds and 3 assists. Wesley Johnson had a well rounded 11 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks.
For the Celtics, Olynyk had 25 points and 7 assists. Rajon Rondo returned to action for the first time this season after recovering from ACL surgery. Rondo had 8 points and 4 assists in 19 minutes. Avery Bradley scored 12 points and Gerald Wallace had 14 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 3 blocks in a losing effort.
That the Lakers were able to win a tough game on the road despite 20 turnovers, showed a resilience they will need on this annual 7 game Grammy’s road trip. They shot 50 percent from the field,a scorching 60 percent from downtown, and 75 percent from the line. All things considered, it was among the Lakers’ best shooting nights of the season.
Ryan Kelly’s role with the team has been growing steadily over the past few weeks and a more complete view of his game is becoming clear. He is more than just a shooter. He is versatile offensively, has shown to be a surprisingly adept help defender, and can he can put the ball on the floor. He started the second half and may continue as a starter going forward.
The Lakers play Sunday afternoon at Toronto.