The Lakers fell behind early and, despite another dominant showing from Anthony Davis, were forced to play from behind the rest of the game, a daunting task that led to a 126-115 loss.
Boston jumped ahead by double digits from the start and, while the Lakers got back into the game in the middle quarters, it was the Celtics who controlled things from start to finish. Only a sterling performance from Davis, who finished with 40 points, 14 rebounds and four assists on 15-26 shooting kept the Lakers in the game.
LeBron James was uncharacteristically bad, struggling to get anything going to finish with 16 points, nine rebounds and eight assists on 5-14 shooting. Taurean Prince continued his strong run of late as well, knocking down five of his 10 3-point attempts to finish with 17 points. Reaves had just 11 points on 4-9 shooting.
The Lakers fell behind the eight ball immediately as the Celtics, who came into the game on an incredible hot streak offensively, shot out of a cannon to score the opening 12 points of the game. Jaylen Brown was the main culprit, scoring seven of those buckets including the 3-pointer that forced an early timeout.
The Lakers steadied things a bit out of the timeout to get on the scoreboard, but they still could not score at the level of the Celtics and the lead grew to 28-12 with the Celtics shooting 11-15 from the field.
Boston’s onslaught didn’t slow and the Lakers had nothing for them for much of the quarter. At last, the Lakers finally came alive against Boston’s second unit to cut the deficit down to 32-23 by the end of the quarter.
After a second quarter where the Lakers worked their way back into the game more and more, Rui Hachimura’s dunk on Kristaps Porzingis cut the deficit to six at 47-41.
RUI HACHIMURA THROWS DOWN THE DUNK pic.twitter.com/bHfMjfsdJb— Ahn Fire Digital (@AhnFireDigital) December 25, 2023
AD, who was unstoppable in the first half, knocked down a pick-and-pop 3-pointer to halve that deficit.
A brief injury scare for LeBron forced him out of the game, but it was only momentarily and he set up Taurean Prince for the game-tying 3-pointer. LeBron nearly added to his long highlight video of chase down blocks with one on Jayson Tatum if not for a foul on Prince on the play.
LEBRON JAMES WITH THE CHASEDOWN BLOCK ON JAYSON TATUM— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) December 25, 2023
While the Lakers won that challenge, their second challenge of the day, it left them without a challenge for the remainder of the game. Still, the Lakers rode the momentum to head into the locker room down just 53-52 after a furious comeback.
A LeBron layup to start the third quarter gave the Lakers their first lead of the game. The opening minutes of the frame featured a host of Lakers trading baskets with Porzingis with the Celtics eventually building a five-point margin.
Porzingis continued his strong third quarter and helped Boston build a nine-point lead, but AD’s bucket in the paint and Reaves’ pull-up 3-pointer immediately cut it back to four points.
Offense remained hard to come by and defensive breakdowns late in the quarter saw Boston build it’s lead back to 13 points with LeBron on the bench. The Lakers kept the lead right around that mark for the remainder of the period because of AD but still trailed 99-90 going into the fourth.
Without Davis on the floor, the deficit grew to 13 points at 107-94, forcing the Lakers to bring the big man back into the game. But playing catch-up against an offense like Boston’s is a mighty ask, especially on a night when only one Laker star showed up for most of the day.
The Celtics delivered the nail in the coffin late and LeBron, who never got going, was pulled from the game in the final minutes as Boston iced away its win.
Anthony Davis is on one of the best runs of his career currently, and certainly so with the Lakers. His jumper is falling from all ranges and there aren’t many people who can stop him right now.
But, the Lakers rely on him to clean up a lot of mistakes defensively and that showed on Monday. With Davis on the perimeter defending Porzingis, the Celtics punished poor defense from the other Lakers and routinely got open shots.
Rarely did it feel like the Lakers were forcing misses but that the Celtics were just missing good shots. And in the end, that’s not a sustainable defensive approach.
That being said, if LeBron and Reaves are going to combine for 25 points on 9-25 shooting, you won’t be any good teams or most bad ones. Mix in bad nights from Cam Reddish and Rui Hachimura and you have the makings for a loss.
A bad night all around for the Lakers.
Editor’s note: No player grades for this one. Enjoy Christmas and the holidays!
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.