Celtics

Celtics-Lakers takeaways: Tatum has his best game of season

Celtics

The Boston Celtics hosted the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night, and the latest chapter of the historic rivalry didn't disappoint.

Boston came out firing on all cylinders in the third quarter and didn't look back. With four starters in double-figures despite missing Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams, the C's earned a 130-108 victory. Points in the paint were the difference-maker as the Celtics had a 56-36 advantage over the Lakers in that category.

Pierce compares Tatum and Brown to himself and Walker

Next up for Boston is another home game Saturday night vs. the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Here are a few immediate takeaways from the win, which brings the C's to 8-8 on the campaign.

Jayson Tatum has his best game of the season

Now this is what C's fans have been waiting to see from Jayson Tatum.

For the Celtics to find their stride, Tatum needs to find his shot. The 23-year-old star has been wildly inconsistent offensively so far in the campaign. On Friday night, however, he made an emphatic statement with his best performance yet.

Tatum finished with a game-high 37 points on 13-of-26 shooting -- including 14 points in the fourth quarter -- to lead Boston in the thriller at TD Garden. He also notched 11 rebounds for the double-double to go along with three steals, two assists and one block.

That's seven straight 20+ point performances from Tatum and his second consecutive game with more than 30. He dropped 34 in Wednesday's loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

It sure looks like Tatum is finding his groove, and that's a great sign with Jaylen Brown likely to return to the C's lineup soon.

 

Marcus Smart sets the tone

Simply put, the Celtics don't win this game without Marcus Smart. He kept Boston within reach during its sluggish first quarter and was huge down the stretch.

Smart tallied 11 points in the first quarter and finished with a season-high 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting. When the Celtics' 3-point shots weren't falling, Smart figured out that the Lakers had no answer defensively in the paint. That realization set the tone for the rest of the game as L.A. couldn't make any adjustments.

Smart added eight rebounds and six assists to his final stat line in the win. Between his offensive contributions and his playmaking, Smart has been outstanding so far this season as the team's starting point guard.

Dennis Schroder sticks it to former team

Schroder was questionable to play due to an ankle injury, but you could tell he had a little extra pep in his step against his former team Friday night.

The ex-Lakers point guard, who infamously rejected an $84 million contract extension with L.A. this past offseason, outplayed his replacement Russell Westbrook. Schroder totaled 21 points (8-of-14) with six assists and six boards while Westbrook finished with 12 points on 5-of-13 shooting.

Schroder has been exceptional for Boston and has greatly outperformed his $5.9 million contract. The lightning-quick guard has scored in double figures in each of the last eight games and has notched at least 20 points in five of them. It'll be interesting to see whether he can keep this up once Brown is back in the fold.

Josh Richardson adds a boost off the bench

Along with Smart, Richardson kept the Celtics afloat when they looked lifeless to begin the first quarter. His nine first-quarter points off the bench provided a much-needed boost when Tatum's shots weren't falling and Boston's defense couldn't contain Anthony Davis (31 pts).

Richardson finished with 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting and four rebounds in 29 minutes. The Celtics newcomer was a bright spot for a second unit that has been sort of a letdown to this point in the season.

LeBron James looks like LeBron James in return

The good news for Lakers fans is LeBron James looks to be 100 percent healthy. The 36-year-old was a game-time decision due to an abdominal strain that had kept him sidelined since Nov. 2.

He went on to put up 23 points (10-of-16) with six rebounds, two assists, and two steals.

LeBron's return couldn't come at a better time for L.A. as it went 3-5 during its superstar's absence. With Friday's loss, the Lakers are now 8-9 on the campaign and ninth in the Western Conference standings.