In a classic NBA battle between two of the league’s most historic franchises, an instant classic was on display in a back-and-forth thriller.
The Los Angeles Lakers used a 45-12 run to erase a 20-point second half deficit but it was not enough as Jayson Tatum erupted for 44 points to lead the Boston Celtics to a triumph 122-118 overtime win on Tuesday night at Crypto.com Arena.
Tatum capped a 17-4 run over the final 4:24 of regulation with a game tying turnaround jumper over LeBron James with 17.8 seconds left to force overtime.
“Games aren’t won or lost in the fourth quarter or overtime,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “We have to be elite at managing the end of the third, beginning of the fourth quarter. That is where NBA games are won and lost, and we didn’t do a good job managing that part of the game.
Jaylen Brown scored five of his 25 points in overtime and added 15 rebounds as the Celtics outscored the Lakers 12-8 in the extra period. Marcus Smart made four three-pointers and finished with 18 points, six assists and two steals for Boston.
“That game just says a lot about our experience and mental toughness,” said Brown. “That’s a tough and perfect way to close out our road trip.”
The Celtics (22-7) jumped out to a 37-24 lead in the first quarter and led 65-50 at halftime behind 24 first half points from Tatum.
Anthony Davis had 37 points and 12 rebounds, and James finished with 33 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. Russell Westbrook added 20 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and four blocks all off the bench for LA.
The Lakers (11-16) controlled the interior with 68 points in the paint compared to only 46 for the Celtics but it was Boston who converted 19 three-pointers while Los Angeles made only eight.
“We gave ourselves a chance to win,” James said. “We didn’t close it out. But loved our effort. I loved our tenacity in the second half and put ourselves in a position to win a ballgame playing against a great team.”
Davis had a chance to seal the game late but missed two free throws with 28 seconds left that would have made it a two-possession game.
“I hold myself to a standard at the line… unacceptable to me,” Davis said.
The Lakers big man played the final 34 minutes of the game which may have resulted in being winded at the line, missing both attempts, being unable to nail clutch shots at charity stripe for the second time in five days after Los Angeles fell to the Sixers last Friday.
“Make two free throws, go up four, different ballgame,” Davis added. “To me, the rest doesn’t matter. Had a chance to ice the game and missed both.”
Los Angeles trailed by as many as 20 points in the third period but put together an 18-0 run to take command of the game late in the fourth with a 106-93 lead, only to fall apart in the final 4:25 of regulation.
“Strategically, trying to see how we can wisely use our timeouts and give them breaks that way,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “I could have done a better job in certain instances in using my timeouts quicker. But that falls on me. Got to get better in that regard.”
The Lakers collapse sat heavy with Davis as he believed he had a chance to ice the game at the line and was seen highly disappointed in himself following the loss. James took notice of that and added the type of competitor he knows Davis is.
“It means he loves the game. If it were the other way around, & he was running around there smiling you’d be questioning what type of teammate you got. I know who I’m rocking and rolling with every night,” James said.
Los Angeles fell just short of beating the team with the best record in the NBA, showing signs of vast improvements after a rough start to the season.
“If you’re a competitor, you should believe,” Westbrook said. “But I can’t speak for everybody. I know for myself, as long as I’m, God willing, able to compete, then I’ll do that till it’s all said and done. But I’m pretty sure guys believe. It’s just about creating some consistency across the board.”
The Lakers will next host the Denver Nuggets (17-10) on Friday night at 7:00 p.m.