Despite career performances from rookies Jonathan Williams and Moritz Wagner, the injury-depleted Lakers lost convincingly to the Celtics on March 9.
Williams added 18 points and 10 rebounds in 29 points while Wagner registered 22 points and six rebounds in the 120-107 home loss. It was Wagner’s 26th game and Williams’ ninth game in the NBA.
“As a basketball player and a competitor you always want to win so it kind of hurts to fight that hard all game and then kind of leave again with a loss.” Wagner said after making his first start in the defeat.
The Lakers drafted Wagner with the No. 25 pick in the 2018 draft and signed Williams after he went undrafted in the same class. They were the only players not named LeBron James who finished with double-digit scoring.
“Their energy and effort is something we’ve been lacking,” James said about the young players after the game. “They’re just young guys that just play, play free.”
James scored 30 points with 10 rebounds and 12 assists in only 29 minutes playing alongside the young players most of the time. However, it wasn’t enough to overcome injuries versus the Celtics who had six players in double-figures.
Los Angeles entered the game with the news that Brandon Ingram would no longer play this season. Ingram got diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis in his right arm.
“it puts everything into perspective.” James said about B.I.’s injury. “You just don’t take an opportunity for granted when you do get on the floor.”
Moreover, Lonzo Ball’s ankle injury was also re-evaluated. It turns out he will likely miss the remained of the season too.
Plus, The Lakers were even more short handed with Kyle Kuzma missing the game due to an ankle injury.
“I can only imagine,” Kyrie Irving said about LeBron and the Lakers’ underwhelming season. “I feel for him.”
Kyrie and the Celtics clicking
There’s been a lot made about the Kyrie and LeBron reconciling this season after a bad fall out as Cavs teammates in 2017. Now, Irving complimented James’ role as a leader and championship player.
Irving finished with 30 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. He talked about his role as leader of the Celtics as they head towards the playoff too.
“We just want to play well and everbody has to step up and it starts with me and my energy out there and my spirit,” Irving said. “When everyone’s on the same page we’re a different team.”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens agreed that Irving was really good versus the Lakers.
“The third quarter when they made their run,” Stevens said. “I thought he obviously steadied us and scored in different ways.”
More Game notes
This was the second installment the NBA’s most historic rivalry. In the last matchup earlier this season, the Celtics lost on a Rajon Rondo buzzer beater.
In this game, Rondo finished with four points, nine assists and six rebounds in 31 minutes.
Still, Boston led by as much as much as 18 in the contest. Multiple Celtics stuffed the stat sheet despite the Lakers never leading by more than two.
L.A. finished the first quarter down one but the Celtics outscored them by nine in the second.
In the third, the Lakers cam within single digits multiple times. The Lakers would pull within seven around the seven minute mark in the third quarter when Kyrie hit a shot to push the score to nine.
A Wagner layup made the score 69-74 with with 5:14 left but the Lakers couldn’t capitalize on a Boston turnover via Gordon Hayward’s charge on the next possession.
Either way, the Lakers again pulled within six again under the four minute market. That’s when Irving hit a shot and then answered a Lakers miss with a three that pushed the score to 82-71. That’s about as close as the Lakers would get.
In the end, the Lakers and Celtics were pretty much even in bench points (41 to 42), turnovers (12 to 13) and second chance points (13 to 16).
“We never like to lose but I was pleased with the effort our guys gave,” Walton said after his team’s loss. “Even looking at the stat sheet, across the board we were pretty similar.”
The Lakers even outscored the Celtics in the paint and on the fastbreak. L.A. finished with 25 fast break points to Boston’s 14 and 68 points in the paint to Boston’s 42. L.A. even shot well from the free throw line finally. They made 14 of 18.
However, L.A. got dominated in three point shooting. They converted only 5-of-27 as a team while Boston knocked down 14-of-38.
“The big difference was [the Celtics] made a lot of contested threes,” the Lakers head coach said.
Next, the Lakers will hope to reverse their shooting woes versus the Bulls on March 12 in Chicago versus the Bulls. It is the first of a five game road trip for the short-handed Lakers.