LeBron James looked pretty close to normal in his return after missing the last eight games due to a sprained stomach, but the Lakers’ defense continued to struggle as they lost their third game in a row and fell 130-108 to their arch-rival Boston Celtics.
The Lakers struggled to curb Jayson Tatum all night as the Celtics star and Kobe Bryant disciple had a game his mentor would have been proud of, with 37 points and 11 rebounds to lead Boston. Four other Celtics scored double-digit numbers, including former Laker threat Dennis Schröder, who finished with 21 points in 34 minutes in his first game against LA since being essentially hung out to dry in the free agency after rejecting a massive contract extension from the Lakers. during last season.
LeBron looked as healthy as one could reasonably expect in his first game since Nov. 2, finishing with 23 points on 10-16 shooting and 3 made threes in 7 attempts, along with 6 rebounds and 2 assists. Anthony Davis led the Lakers in scoring with 31 points, but had only 6 rebounds when the Celtics became the latest team this year to dominate LA on the boards.
Boston returned from LA 51-33 and became the latest in a long line of teams this season that revealed the Lakers’ lack of depth on a great man of high quality and successfully ruled out Davis with more defenders. It did not help that the Lakers often looked sluggish in their rotations at that end through most of the night, and their offensive also often stalled.
After his perhaps best game of the season against the Bucks, Russell Westbrook had an abysmal outing where he finished 5-13 from the field for 12 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists. Carmelo Anthony and Malik Monk added 13 and 9 points respectively, but also finished with the two worst plus-minus ratings on the team at -16 and -20, respectively, as the Celtics revealed their defensive shortcomings.
All in all, this is another unresolved disaster for the Lakers, and the return of their best player did not make much of a difference. This team needs some kind of drastic change – whether it’s a tangible move to shake up the coaching staff or the kind of closed doors that these very Celtics had a few weeks ago – to get it right.
We are now 17 games into the season and the schedule is not getting any easier. Even the 2010-11 Miami Heat, another famous Big Three with LeBron in their first year together, had a better record at this point of 9-8. The Lakers are not the Heat team, nor are they a winning basketball team right now, and they will have to change that sooner rather than later if they want to get close to their pre-season expectations.
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