In the first game after the NBA trade deadline, the Los Angeles Lakers looked ready to get blown out with the built-in excuse that their chemistry was still reeling following all the speculation and rumors that swirled around the team. Then, LeBron James woke up and the rest of the team followed suit.
Then due to some late heroics from James, huge threes from Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and a gigantic game-winning buzzer-beater from Rajon Rondo, the Lakers were able to pull out a 129-128 victory in Boston
As basic as such analysis might seem, the Lakers really tend to rise to the amount of energy James plays with. If his energy dips, the Lakers look like one of the worst teams in the NBA. As his energy picks, up, they tend to follow suit. The difference between the first and second quarters Thursday night speak exactly to this phenomenon.
Speaking of James, when he did wake up, he played the way you would expect him to in Boston. It looked early on like maybe he still wasn’t fully ready physically to go, but he woke up and helped drag the Lakers to victory, finishing with a triple-double of 28 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.
Brandon Ingram struggled offensively, but made an impact everywhere else on the court. Given the number of talented wings the Celtics have at their disposal (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward, to name a few), while you’d obviously prefer to see Ingram shoot better than he did, the fact that he remained focused enough to still impact the game was pretty impressive.
The Lakers had some uncharacteristically strong shooting — making a franchise-record 22 threes — but due to the moves the Lakers made at the deadline, they were still pretty shorthanded, even by their own standards.
Ivica Zubac, now a Clipper, wasn’t available and neither Mike Muscala nor Reggie Bullock were able to get through the trade process in time to participate Thursday night. As the team was already without Lonzo Ball and with Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart both banged up, it’s really surprising the Lakers were able to win.
The better news is that the Lakers do have a few days off before their next game. They don’t play again until Sunday, when they take on the Philadelphia 76ers. That’s enough time for their reinforcements to arrive, and for the team to get a little healthier. Having a huge win going into that break has to be huge for the team’s psyche.