Celtics

Celtics

LOS ANGELES -- There are no moral victories when you are one of the top teams record-wise in the NBA.

But there’s no doubt the Boston Celtics will take many positives away from their 114-112 loss to the Lakers, which included Jayson Tatum delivering a Black Mamba-like performance with a career-high-tying 41 points. 

Tatum had one last shot to force overtime or help the Celtics steal the win, but he was called for an offensive foul with 0.8 seconds to play that sealed the victory for the Lakers.

The down-to-the-wire finish is not what anyone expected between these two teams, a game that many anticipated the Lakers would win with ease, similar to how Boston smashed them last month by 32 points.

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That loss for Los Angeles last month should have served as added motivation for the Lakers to be at their best.

Los Angeles also came in having won four in a row, along with Anthony Davis (32 points, 13 rebounds) being healthy after having missed the five previous games before the Boston beatdown last month. 

And let’s not forget the Celtics were without their top scorer, Kemba Walker (left knee).

Despite all that going on, this game came down to the wire. 

After three quarters which ended with the score tied at 87, the fourth quarter began with the Celtics getting a basket from Romeo Langford that was goal-tended. 

Moments later, Daniel Theis converted a 3-point play to push Boston’s lead up to five points. 

But the Lakers soon found their stride, regained the lead and put the Celtics in catch-up mode. 

DANIEL THEIS

In the first few minutes of Sunday’s game, Daniel Theis was the primary source of offense for the Celtics. 

And while others certainly had it going offensively more than Theis, he delivered yet another strong game at both ends of the floor. 

His defense was not all that surprising. 

The main reason he is a starter for the Celtics is because of how well he defends both individually as well as providing help and some level of rim protection. 

But more than that, he is becoming a more serviceable option offensively when defenses do a good job of not allowing those around him to have great looks at the rim. 

He finished with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting along with nine rebounds.

JAYLEN BROWN

We have seen him show his defensive prowess a number of times this season, but the job he did on Anthony Davis in the first half was huge. 

Despite giving up several inches, Brown’s defense didn’t allow Davis to camp in the paint like he wanted to. 

And because of Brown’s quickness, Davis wasn’t able to get great looks from the perimeter as well. 

To the Lakers’ credit, they did a much better job in the second half getting Davis in more advantageous matchups which factored in him putting up a strong game statistically with 32 points and 13 rebounds. 

But that doesn’t take away or diminish the job Brown did limiting one of the more dominant players in the NBA to just eight points in the first half on 4-for-11 shooting with as many made baskets (four) as turnovers (four).

LAKERS BENCH PLAY

With Marcus Smart moving into the starting lineup with Kemba Walker (left knee) out, you knew it would have a significant impact on the production of Boston’s backups. 

Second unit scoring was the one area that the Lakers dominated Boston from the outset before finishing with a 43-11 advantage. 

But that’s not surprising when you consider the Lakers’ success this year is far more dependent on what they get from their second unit scoring-wise comparatively to Boston.

But the one positive for Boston’s second unit was the play of Romeo Langford, who spent time defending LeBron James in addition to making multiple hustle plays offensively. That led to him leading Boston’s bench in scoring with five points. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Trail Blazers, which begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 10 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.