LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers will seek to bounce back from a loss to one rival with a win over another as they play host to Jayson Tatum and the Boston Celtics on Tuesday night.
James amassed 23 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, while Anthony Davis led all scorers with 27 points, but the Lakers couldn’t pull out a victory against the rival Los Angeles Clippers in a 119-115 defeat on Friday.
Russell Westbrook finished with 10 points, nine assists and two rebounds for the Lakers, who never led but overcame an 11-point, second-quarter deficit to stay within striking distance until the final minute.
“There were definitely opportunities where we were close to getting over the hump and didn’t make a play, and that’s just part of where we’re at with our season,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “We’re a team working to build cohesiveness and get over that hump.”
The loss denied the Lakers a third straight victory, a feat the team has achieved just once this season from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2. Los Angeles had won four of six games before coming up short against the Clippers.
James was making his return after missing the team’s win at Sacramento last Tuesday after returning a false positive COVID-19 test. James was able to play against the Clippers after producing a handful of subsequent negative tests.
“For me, it’s just been very frustrating. (I’m) either dealing with the groin or the (abdomen) and then having to deal with the false positive,” said James, who has not played in more than three consecutive games this season. “It’s been a very challenging year to start … but only good things ahead.”
Boston is coming off its best offensive performance of the season in a 145-117 rout at Portland last Saturday. Tatum led the charge with 31 points and 10 rebounds for the Celtics, who notched a season-high in points and shot 56.8 percent (21-of-37) from 3-point territory.
The win was Boston’s third in four tries and sixth in nine games overall.
“We were getting those same looks early in the season. Numbers are going to look different if they don’t fall,” Boston coach Ime Udoka said. “Really increasing the pace and ball movement, that’s our main thing. Less isolation, less stagnant play.”
Boston was without All-Star Jaylen Brown for a second straight game as the team manages his return from a right hamstring strain. Center Al Horford (low back tightness) and guard Romeo Langford (right ankle sprain) were also sidelined against Portland.
Former Lakers guard Dennis Schroder added 31 points and eight assists for the Celtics against the Trail Blazers and will be looking for another strong outing against his former club.
Schroder totaled 21 points, six rebounds and six assists to help the Celtics get the better of the Lakers in a 130-108 home win on Nov. 19. Tatum had another big game with a game-high 37 points and 11 rebounds for Boston.
“This is special. This is Lakers and Celtics. So much history between the two,” Tatum told ESPN after the game. “It feels good to get a win against a contending team.”
Davis had 31 points to lead the Lakers while James contributed 23 in what was his first game back from an eight-game absence with the abdominal strain.
It will be the final matchup between the Celtics and Lakers at the currently named Staples Center, which will be renamed Crypto.com Arena as of Christmas Day. Opened in October of 1999, the arena has hosted a pair of NBA Finals series between the two iconic rivals in 2008 and 2010.
–Field Level Media