LeBron James Makes Go-Ahead Shot as Lakers Defeat Celtics 114-112
The Lakers avenged their worst loss of the season to Boston last month in dramatic fashion Sunday with a 114-112 victory in front of many former Lakers and Celtics greats, breathing new life into the storied rivalry between the teams.
With 30.4 seconds left and the Lakers trailing Boston, 110-109, James made a 15-foot fadeaway jumper over Jaylen Brown to give the Lakers a one-point lead, 111-110. Anthony Davis made three free throws in the final seconds to secure the win for the Lakers.
"I had been setting him up all night with the back down to the drop step to the baseline, so I figured he would sit on it thinking I would try it again," James said of Brown. "So went to my back down, gave a little dream shake to the baseline and was able to open up middle and get my fadeaway."
It was an important win for the Lakers, who were playing a Celtics team without Kemba Walker (sore left knee). In their last game at TD Garden on Jan. 20, the Celtics won by 32 points, something that Davis acknowledged Saturday has been on the Lakers' minds ever since.
"We know how big this rivalry is," Davis said. "It goes way back, way before some of us was even born. So we want to make sure we came in here and get the win, especially after the way they beat us in Boston."
The Lakers and Celtics have met a record 12 times in the NBA Finals, with the Celtics winning in 2008 and the Lakers winning in 2010. The Celtics have 17 NBA championships, while the Lakers have 16.
This season, that rivalry has been renewed.
Lakers' coach Frank Vogel said Saturday the Celtics, who are third in the Eastern Conference with a 39-17 record, are legitimate title contenders. And the Lakers, who sit atop the Western Conference at 43-12, are also a favorite to win the championship.
On Sunday, there were six lead changes and seven ties in a game in which no team ever led by more than seven points. There was a playoff atmosphere at Staples Center, where over 19,000 fans stood for the final minute of the game.
Vogel said Sunday's win was a good learning lesson for a Lakers team that has many new faces.
"The more that you’re in that environment of a close game, of an intense game like that, I think everybody just gets a chance to grow together," Vogel said. "I mean, one of the weaknesses of our team is our continuity. We just haven’t been in a lot of those situations as a group. This coaching staff, our core guys, Anthony and LeBron, have not and [neither has] most of the team.
"It’s all been put together this year. I’m super impressed with our guys' ability to work together and still win games throughout the season. Each time we get into a close game like that, win or lose, you learn lessons, you get a better feel for each other, that stuff is going to be beneficial for us in the playoffs."
James had 29 points, nine rebounds and eight assists for the Lakers. Davis added 32 points and 13 rebounds.
Jayson Tatum finished with a career-high matching 41 points for the Celtics.
The Lakers won in front of many former Celtics greats, including Bill Russell, Kevin Garnett, Brian Scalabrine and Cedric Maxwell. Before the game, speaking in front of season ticket holders and a few media members, Maxwell, whose Celtics teams won a championship over the Lakers in 1984 and lost to them in The Finals in 1985, said he hated Randy Newman's song 'I love L.A' with a deep passion.
After the Lakers won Sunday, the song played again, serenading former and new members of this storied rivalry that has most definitely been reinvigorated.