What a week. After nearly everyone but LeBron James was rumored to be traded during the (all too public) Anthony Davis negotiations, the Lakers pulled off a stunning 129-128 to victory the hated Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Rajon Rondo drilled a 17-foot jumper at the buzzer after the ball caromed around in the final seconds, inspiring cathartic primal screams from Lakers fans the world over.
The game certainly didn’t start out encouragingly though, as listless Lakers defense allowed Boston to have their way, culminating in a 53-35 Celtics lead early in the second quarter. To make matters worse, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown were thoroughly outplaying Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma in the battle of young cores.
Luke Walton turned to LeBron James at the center position soon after that, altering the momentum of the game. Let’s take a closer look:
The Lakers picked a great time to catch fire from 3-point range, drilling a franchise-record 22 3-pointers. Their third quarter was particularly scorching, which inspired some of the only stretches fo quality defense that either team played as the Lakers outscored Boston 42-27.
The Celtics regained control of the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter, scoring at will against a Lakers lineup that defended foolishly. But the Lakers made big play after big play down the stretch to stay in the game, before Rondo his the most satisfying buzzer beater in Boston since Nick Van Exel ended the Lakers’ final game in the Boston Garden with a fadeaway 30-footer.
It’s difficult to overstate the significance of this Lakers win. Injuries have ravaged the team throughout the season, but a fractured locker room in the wake of the trade deadline is a much more insidious threat.
The Lakers won’t eliminate that danger with just one win — which is why Magic Johnson is flying to Philadelphia to have a clear-the-air meeting with the team — but a resilient comeback that climaxed in a game-winner from arguably the most well-respected locker room presence on the team is a huge step in the right direction.