Los Angeles Lakers: Bench elevates team in win over Boston Celtics

(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images) /

The Los Angeles Lakers got a big performance from their bench in the win over the Boston Celtics.

This year, the Los Angeles Lakers stayed put at the trade deadline. They negotiated without rushing into any desperation move, waiting for something really worthy that never materialized.

Despite what people think and what was said about their needs, the Lakers feel happy with what they have. They believe they already have what is needed to win. So, unless something impossible to pass was proposed to them, they would have not taken any risk to disrupt the group they have put together this summer, which has built a strong bond through these months.

Word was that they especially needed someone to boost their bench. Somebody who could replace LeBron James on controlling the game when the Chosen One rests on the bench, creating for himself and for the others. Darren Collison had emerged as the primary target in the buyout market, but when he announced he would not come out of retirement, people looked at the Lakers like a doomed team, with no chances to stand against dangerous contenders like the Los Angeles Clippers and the Milwaukee Bucks.

Listening to opinions, this phantom backup point guard would have been the one who almost single-handedly could have changed the fortunes of the Lakers, sustaining the lackluster second unit and becoming their most important player behind LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

This narrative still goes on among analysts and executives. But what if the Lakers already have what they need?

In a a nationally televised game against the Boston Celtics on Sunday, LA’s bench showed up strongly, helping the team come up over their historic rivals. Of course, the Celtics were missing point guard Kemba Walker, but they were led by an unstoppable Jayson Tatum who played one of the best games of his career.

The Lakers’ bench unit sustained and pushed the team, thriving with LeBron on and especially off the floor. They made runs that helped them take a big lead first, and stay in the game then, facing an opponent that makes seldom use of its bench. While purple and gold starting supporting cast scored a meager 10 points, the second unit combined for 43.

Among all, Rajon Rondo led the team like the big floor general he once used to be. He looked like a younger version of himself. Fast, quick, easily finding the way to the rim, playing big defense, and setting up his teammates with great plays. It looks like, as the playoffs get closer, he is getting toward Playoff Rondo form.

Him and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope fought on every ball on the defensive end. Rajon finished with five steals, KCP made a big play late in the fourth quarter, forcing Tatum to turn the ball over in a crucial possession. Although he was impossible to stop, Ken and Kyle Kuzma were the two that made the best opposition on the Celtic wing.

Despite an awful 1-for-5 from three, Kuzma had 16 points and led the team in plus-minus at 17. Alex Caruso had his usual solid game on both ends of the floor and Dwight Howard keeps stealing the show from JaVale McGee at center, with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 1 block in just 15 minutes.

In such a big game, the Lakers’ bench showed how they can contribute and help win, supporting front office’s belief and resolution in keeping the group together. Consistency remains the biggest issue for this second unit, but as the season progresses toward the postseason they have the chance to prove they are legit.

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Furthermore, the management has recently added another weapon, reportedly reaching an agreement to sign veteran Markieff Morris once he clears waivers. He might become instrumental in giving the second unit that consistency on a scoring standpoint.