Celtics

Lakers-Celtics Takeaways: C's avoid NBA equivalent of Conor McGregor fight, flip script to blow out Lakers

Lakers-Celtics Takeaways: C's avoid NBA equivalent of Conor McGregor fight, flip script to blow out Lakers

BOSTON -- It took less than two minutes for the Los Angeles Lakers to put the Boston Celtics in an 8-0 hole, looking as though we were about to witness the basketball equivalent of the Conor McGregor-Cowboy Cerrone UFC fight that was over before you knew it. 

The Celtics-Lakers game stayed true to that … but not the way you might have expected. 

Boston erased that 8-0 deficit in no time. 

And then they went about wiping out any hopes that the high-flying Lakers had of competing, let alone beating the Celtics, who absolutely crushed the Lakers with a decisive 139-107 win.

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Boston (28-14) officially kicked off the second half of the season with the Green Team equivalent of a  2-for-1 special: snapping their three-game losing streak while beating a hated rival in the process. 

Brad Stevens often talks about his players needing to play as close as they can to the best version of themselves. 

We saw that on many levels Monday, with the contributions coming from pretty much every Celtics player who stepped on the floor. 

And aside from the first two minutes of the game, the Lakers (34-9) were outplayed in every way, shape and form by the Celtics. 

The catalyst for Boston’s uprising on Monday wasn’t about a single player or moment in the game, but a collection of impact, difference-makers who on this night put together the most complete game of the season.

The result is a rousing win that, if the Celtics have their way, will be the jumping-off point for them to get back in the thick of the race for one of the top spots in the Eastern Conference this season. 

ENES KANTER

We’ve seen Enes Kanter dominate games, but rarely have we seen him control the action around the rim against a team with as many bigs as the Los Angeles Lakers. 

Whether it was on post-ups or put-backs, Kanter was not going to be denied on this night. 

He would finish the night with an impressive 18-point, 11-rebound performance with much of his damage coming in the first half in which he tallied a near double-double of 18 points and eight rebounds. 

It was the kind of performance that could not have come at a better time for Boston. Kanter provided the kind of inside presence offensively that would prove to be critical to the team getting a much-needed win. 

GORDON HAYWARD

He wasn’t one of Boston’s top scorers, but his play was absolutely critical to Boston rallying from an early first-quarter hole to get the victory. 

During the first couple of minutes, the Celtics were totally off the mark as a team with shots not falling and the transition from defense to offense being off.

But with points few and far between for Boston, it was Hayward’s scoring that kept the Celtics afloat early on and more importantly, set the tone for their comeback that was easily their most impressive win of the season. 

Hayward would finish with 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting with six rebounds and five assists.

JAYSON TATUM

It wasn’t so much the total points scored, but the timing. 

On more than one occasion, Tatum knocked down a shot that stymied a Lakers surge or gave the Celtics a little breathing room.

Few were as big as the transition 3-pointer he drained to put Boston up 88-66 with 7:09 to play in the third quarter. 

He didn’t deliver the put-them-away dagger shot, but instead a series of well-timed, precision-crisp baskets that began by putting the Lakers in a hole, and concluded with burying them in again, easily the most impressive performance of the season for this Celtics team. 

And Tatum led all scorers with 27 points on 10-for-18 shooting with five rebounds. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Grizzlies-Celtics, which begins Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, followed by tip-off at 7:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.

Jayson Tatum, NBA All-Stars honor Kobe Bryant with well-played All-Star game

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USA Today Sports Images

Jayson Tatum, NBA All-Stars honor Kobe Bryant with well-played All-Star game

CHICAGO -- The untimely death of Kobe Bryant was the theme leading up to Sunday night’s All-Star game which was won by Team LeBron, 157-155.

The night began with a series of tributes to Bryant which included a stirring speech given by Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson.

Throughout Johnson’s speech, there was the occasional “Ko-be, Ko-be, Ko-be!” chant from the stands.

And the actual game itself was one of the better-played All-Star games in recent memory courtesy of a new format that seemed to go over well with all involved. 

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The game came down to big shots and big stops by both teams, a fitting end to the night considering how all involved wanted to honor Kobe Bryant and did just that with a brand of basketball that in many ways was part of the Kobe narrative of elite play at both ends of the floor. 

Chris Paul acknowledged the challenge of playing the game at a high level and not think about Bryant who was a major influence for many of today’s All-Star players. 

“It was tough early, especially early,” Paul said. “For a lot of us, it's still surreal. It's not real until you start showing pictures and talking about it. But I think the best way we could honor Kobe, Gigi, and everyone involved was to play like we played, you know what I Mean? Me and Russ (Russell Westbrook) kept talking about it, that's one thing about Kobe, whenever he was on our team in the All-Star Game, there wasn't none of that cool stuff. There wasn't none of that. It was like, as long as they throw the ball up, let's get to it.”

LeBron James added, “You could definitely feel his presence just from the start. From every moment from the fans chanting his name till you seen the numbers. Every time you saw Giannis' team run on the floor, you saw the 2-4. So he was definitely here.”

Former NBA All-Star Richard “Rip” Hamilton was among those in attendance at the game. 

He and Bryant were both prep stars who grew up competing with and against each other in Pennsylvania and were at times roommates during all-star competitions.

Hamilton acknowledged he still hasn’t fully come to grips with what happened to Bryant and the others. 

“It hurt me, man, it hurt me to my core,” Hamiton told NBC Sports Boston. “And I still haven’t fully recovered from it. Him and I go back way before the NBA and the glitz and glamor and everything else. It’s a thing that … it still impacts me to this day.”

And once the current crop of All-Star players stepped on the floor, Team Giannis wore jersey number 24 (Kobe Bryant’s number) while Team LeBron wore jersey number 2 (the number of GiGi Bryant, Kobe’s daughter). 

Boston’s Jayson Tatum is among the many players on the floor whose game was heavily influenced by Bryant who along with his daughter Gigi, was killed along with seven others in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26. 

The relationship between Tatum and Bryant had grown into a friendship strengthened by Bryant’s interest in mentoring Tatum who has never shied away from acknowledging how influential Bryant has been in his life, both on the court as well as off the court since coming into the NBA. 

“He was the reason I started playing basketball,” Tatum said recently. “To have him reach out and try and help me, wanna work with me was something I would never forget.”

Jayson Tatum forges key relationships at memorable first All-Star Game

Jayson Tatum forges key relationships at memorable first All-Star Game

CHICAGO -- In the days leading up to Sunday night’s 69th NBA All-Star game, Jayson Tatum, playing for Team LeBron, was intent on going at teammate and member of Team Giannis, Kemba Walker, every chance he could get. 

True to form, Tatum went right at Walker moments into the second quarter when both were on the floor together. 

He tried to take him into the post, but Walker wasn’t having it. 

Tatum then pulled up for a fadeaway jumper that was off the mark. 

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Chalk that up to one of the many memories Tatum will take away from his first All-Star appearance. 

Tatum would finish with six points while Walker tallied 23 as one of the key performers in Team Giannis' comeback that fell just short as Team LeBron escaped with a 157-155 win with the game-winning score coming on an Anthony Davis free throw. 

But when it comes to the NBA All-Star game, points, rebounds and assists mean little. 

More important are the relationships that are formed and in many instances, strengthened at such events. 

Tatum has been one of the players in his age group for years, so there are a number of All-Stars that he has had a prior connection to, prior to tonight’s game. 

But the one that has been arguably most important to his growth this season, has been that between him and Walker. 

“Kemba, that's my guy,” Tatum said. “Our relationship and friendship has grown a lot over this season so far, from USA basketball to playing on the Celtics to experiencing All-Star together. So it's been a good ride. We're enjoying it.”

Walker is playing in his fourth All-Star game, a player whose status among the NBA’s elite is well cemented. 

Prior to this season, Walker talked often about the growth he saw in Tatum’s game when they were Team USA teammates, along with fellow Celtics Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart. 

Recognizing Tatum’s talent, that’s one thing. 

But more than anything, Walker has made a point of encouraging Tatum to continue striving for greatness, and not worry about how that will impact him.

“I’m good. I know who I am and what I can do in this league,” Walker told NBC Sports Boston recently. “Jayson’s really good and part of my job here, is to let him know how great he is and do whatever I can to help him be great all the time.”

During an interview with NBC Sports Boston during All-Star weekend, Walker echoed those sentiments about Tatum. 

“Like I’ve been saying all year, he’s a special talent,” Walker said. “He deserves to be here. I’m happy I’m able to share this one with him; especially his first one. This is the one he’s never going to forget, ever. I’m happy to be a part of it.”