Celtics win season-high sixth straight, beating Lakers, 113-107

Celtics win season-high sixth straight, beating Lakers, 113-107

BOSTON – At one point on Friday night, a scant ‘Beat L-A’ chant was barely audible by the Boston Celtics faithful.

Despite these two being longtime rivals, there wasn’t nearly the kind of buzz or excitement in the building that die-hard fans of both franchises are used to.

That didn’t matter to the Celtics who had some iffy play defensively in the final minutes of play after building a 17-point in the third quarter, a cushion that proved to be key in holding on for a 113-107 win.

Boston (32-18) has now won a season-high six straight.

Even before the victory, Brad Stevens and his staff were going to be coaching the East All-Stars courtesy of Toronto’s loss earlier in the night at Orlando.

But beating the Lakers (17-36) still had significance for Boston.

For starters, it’s a rival that they have had trouble with in recent years having lost eight of the previous 11 matchups.

The victory was No. 3,253 for Boston – tops all-time in the NBA and one more than the Lakers.

The victory continued to distance them from the Raptors and the Washington Wizards who both trail Boston by 2.5 games. In addition, the Celtics are now just 2.0 games behind East-leading Cleveland Cavaliers.

And while Boston led by as many as 17 points on Friday, there’s no such thing as an easy win for the Celtics when they play the Lakers who soon trimmed Boston’s lead down to single digits.

But once again it was Isaiah Thomas coming to the rescue.

The Lakers made a bunch of shots in the fourth quarter, only for Thomas to consistently make the right basketball play whether it be taking a shot himself or finding a teammate for an open look at the rim.

He finished with 38 points, 17 of which came in the fourth quarter. Thomas, the reigning Eastern Conference player of the month, also had four assists.

The Celtics jumped out to a 7-0 lead, only for the Lakers to respond with a 15-7 run of their own to lead 15-14. Los Angeles would go ahead by as many as four points in the first, but a 3-pointer by Terry Rozier just before the horn sounded to end the first cut the Lakers lead to 30-29.

It was a one or two-possession game for most of the second quarter, but a 9-2 run by Boston to end the half gave them a 62-51 cushion which would prove to be their largest lead of the half.

Boston’s control of the game remained steady throughout most of the third quarter with the Celtics’ lead teetering on the edge of being a double-digit margin.

The Lakers backcourt of Nick Young (17 points) and D’Angelo Russell (20 points) were the primary scorers for a Lakers team that surprisingly got very little scoring production from its bench.

But their bench soon came alive, looking in the second half more like the unit that averages a league-best 50.3 points per game. For the game, Los Angeles’ backups tallied 59 points.

Celtics-Thunder preview: Balancing rest and rhythm

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Celtics-Thunder preview: Balancing rest and rhythm

BOSTON – With the NBA playoffs looming, this is a tricky time of year for most of the league’s playoff-bound teams. 

Both players and coaches want to head into the postseason well-rested. 

But they also want to be in a good playing rhythm.

MORE - OKC not taking shorthanded C's for granted

Injuries have forced the Boston Celtics to sit some players who are likely to be able to play (and well-rested) when the playoffs. 

And tonight’s foe, the Oklahoma City Thunder, are in a similar situation as well. 

“It's something you're walking a tightrope on all the time, where a guy is really rested but you've taken him out of rhythm,” said Thunder head coach Billy Donovan. “The biggest thing is, there's gotta be communication between the players and the medical staff, coaches, of where guys are, what they need.

Donovan added, “I think rest this time of year would help any player, but there's a balance between maybe getting too much rest and maybe getting out of rhythm. The players are always walking that line during the course of the year, because you kind of get into a rhythm of playing every other day, you get into that, and then there's a back to back here or there, and you get three games in four nights, but yeah. You try to best as you can with your players, help them balance that the best they can.”

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook can see how some players might need to strike a balance between getting enough rest late in the season while maintaining a good playing rhythm.  

So, I asked him which is his preference?

“I prefer to play,” he said. “Rhythm and all that (expletive), it’s in your mind.”

For Westbrook, maybe so. 

But it is very real to a number of players in the NBA, among them being his teammate and fellow All-Star Paul George. 

“If you know why you’re in the gym and the work you’re getting, you lock in,” George said. “You prepare, get your work done. And you get off your legs, get off our feet and get your rest. It’s easy to balance the two when you know what exactly you’re doing and you know exactly what you need to do.”

Boston has worked to strike that balance with Kyrie Irving all season.

That’s why the five-time All-Star is averaging 24.4 points per game which is 11th in the league. However, he’s doing it in 32.2 minutes which ranks 55th in the league in minutes played per game. 

Lately, Irving has gotten more time off than he would like as he deals with a sore left knee that has kept him sidelined for the Celtics’ last three games. 

It doesn’t appear to be something that will limit him now.

However, having him sit out games now increases the likelihood that he’ll be ready to roll at or near full strength, when the playoffs arrive. 

Boston is also playing without Jaylen Brown who suffered a concussion when he fell on his back following a dunk at Houston on March 3. He is expected to return at some point between now and the end of the regular season which could be a blessing in disguise for the 6-foot-7 Brown who will be called upon to not only remain Boston’s next-best scoring option to Kyrie Irving, but also defend at a high level. 

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens acknowledged that they have given thought to how to find that happy medium between resting guys while ensuring as best they can, that players will be refreshed for the playoffs. 

“We haven’t been in that situation very often, where we choose to do rest except for that stretch in December when we rested Al (Horford),” Stevens said. “But everything else has kind of happened organically with guys being dinged up or whatever the case may be. I think that’s … we’ll probably be in a situation where we will continue to have those discussions.”


Thunder not taking shorthanded Celtics for granted

Thunder not taking shorthanded Celtics for granted

Oklahoma City All-Star Paul George knows the Boston Celtics team he and his Thunder teammates will face tomorrow night, won’t be at full strength.

But he’s wise enough to know if you focus too much on an opponent’s key losses to their roster, that same team can potentially hand you a loss which is the last thing the Thunder need right now in what’s shaping up to be a tightly contested Western Conference playoff race.

MORE - I.T. isn't ruling out return to C's

Currently fourth in the standings, only four games separate teams No. 3-8. Only Houston (56-14) and Golden State (53-17) have secured a postseason berth. 

Which means the Celtics won’t catch Oklahoma City sleeping on them heading into tomorrow night’s game. 

“We are going to address it the same way regardless of who's in there,” George said. “We got to pick these games up. We lost the game on our floor earlier this season.”

But that was early in the season when the Thunder were still trying to figure out how its newly formed core of Russell Westbrook, George and Carmelo Anthony, could mesh.

Oklahoma City has gotten stronger as the season progressed, and are one of the hottest teams around with six straight wins, the most recent being a 132-125 victory at Eastern Conference-leading Toronto. 

Meanwhile, Boston (47-23) has lost its last two games and three of four so from a momentum standpoint, the Thunder have every reason to feel as though they’ll emerge victorious tomorrow night. 

And they also have added motivation from their Nov. 3 matchup with the Celtics in Oklahoma City that ended with a 101-94 win for Boston. 

Westbrook had 19 points and 11 assists in that game but shot 7-for-20 from the field. Carmelo Anthony had 14 points but did so on a woeful 3-for-17 shooting. And then there was George’s 25 points on 9-for-20 shooting to go with 10 rebounds. 

“We have to show who we are,” George said.

Who they are, is a team that’s fighting for home court in at least the first round of the playoffs where they are currently fourth in the West. 

And their success in the last six games has been fueled by strong play at both ends of the floor. 


In that stretch, Oklahoma City is averaging 116.2 points which ranks second in the NBA during that span. Defensively, they are allowing 104.5 points which is the 10th-fewest allowed in the last six games.

“Just making the right plays, offensively and defensively” is how Westbrook described the team’s recent run of success. 

And the Thunder have every intention of keeping it going against a beat-up Celtics squad that they know they can’t take lightly. 

“Again, we are playing really well,” George said. “A step back if we lose no matter who's in or who's out would hurt us.”