Celtics

10 notes and observations from the Celtics’ impressive blowout of the Lakers

Jayson Tatum makes a three-point basket over Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis. Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

The Celtics trounced the Los Angeles Lakers, 139-107, Monday night, snapping their three-game skid. Here’s what we saw during the much-needed victory: 

1. There was a solid contingent of Lakers fans in the crowd, as evidenced by the abundance of gold jerseys and loud cheers after Javale McGee’s opening alley-oop. The Garden’s allegiances certainly swayed in the home team’s favor as the game went on — strong “Beat LA” chants broke out in the second half — but Lakers fans occasionally still made themselves heard. 

2. L.A.’s size advantage seemed obvious from the start. In the first 106 seconds of the game, the Celtics had both of their shot attempts blocked, while the Lakers jumped out to a fast 8-0 lead off a four-point play from guard Danny Green and two easy buckets at the rim. “That hit us square in the face to start the game,” said Celtics coach Brad Stevens. The Lakers ended up registering four blocks in the first four minutes, and six in the first quarter. Seven of their 12 first-quarter field goals came in the restricted area. 

3. Anthony Davis picked up two fouls in the first three and a half minutes, but the speedy tally shouldn’t have had much of an impact because he was already on a minutes restriction. Still, Lakers coach Frank Vogel subbed Davis out, a decision he later questioned. “I probably should have left him in the game,” Vogel said after the game. Limited to a maximum of 28 minutes — his season average is 35.2 per game — Davis was making his return after missing five straight contests with an injured tailbone. He finished with just nine points on 3-for-7 shooting and four rebounds. 

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4. Despite the early deficit, the Celtics did not seem to let their energy dip — an issue that has plagued them in previous outings. Forward Jaylen Brown was particularly pesky on the defensive end, highlighted by back-to-back possessions in which he stole a pass. The first of which led to a fluky bucket from point guard Kemba Walker. 

Throughout the first quarter, the Celtics stayed engaged and were able to capitalize for 12 points off the Lakers’ six turnovers. They also were active on the glass, with more rebounds coming on offense (7) than defense (5). Boston continued to dominate those two areas for the remainder of the game: The Celtics finished with 14 offensive boards for 24 second-chance points and turned L.A.’s 15 turnovers into 28 points. Vogel called his team’s effort “poor” and “disappointing.” 

“They were more physical,” added Davis. “They basically did whatever they wanted the whole night. We didn’t respond, and we can’t afford to do that on the road, especially against a team like this.”

5. The Celtics relied on a well-distributed scoring night, featuring five players in double digits. Boston shot an outstanding 55.9 percent from the field and an equally, if not more, impressive 47.1 percent from behind the arc. Highlights included five threes from Jayson Tatum, a double-double (18 points, 11 rebounds) off the bench from Enes Kanter, and a pretty behind-the-back pass from Marcus Smart. “We needed everybody today,” Stevens said. “I thought everybody played well.”

The play that will likely receive the loudest buzz, however, came when Brown emphatically dunked on James in the third quarter. The crowd absolutely erupted. Brown was hit with a technical foul after hanging on the rim a bit longer and then staring down James. Following the win, he couldn’t hide his excitement.

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“I ain’t going to lie, that was pretty nice,” Brown said. “It was pretty awesome.”

Was dunking on James on his bucket list heading into Monday’s game?

“I ain’t going to lie, yeah,” he admitted, grinning.

6. Kanter once again showed his worth as a center — especially on the offensive glass, where he converted six rebounds for five baskets. He finished 8 of 10 from the field, with all of his buckets coming at the rim. Because the Celtics guards draw so much attention, they are able to either dump the ball off to Kanter or attack the basket and catch the opponent’s bigs jumping for a block, which can set Kanter up for an offensive rebound. “He’s one of the best at getting that position,” said Stevens. The crowd, recognizing his impact, gave Kanter a loud ovation each time he checked out of the game.

7. Stevens shortened up the rotation to eight players: the starting lineup (Walker, Brown, Tatum, Gordon Hayward, and Daniel Theis) plus Smart, Kanter and forward Semi Ojeleye. With the exception of deploying Grant Williams for the final 38 seconds of the first half, Stevens stuck to that tightened group until the Lakers waved the white flag in the fourth quarter. The choice likely stemmed from a desire to stay competitive as well as experiment and evaluate different combinations with nearly the entire roster available.

8. On one of his lowest scoring nights of the season, LeBron James was held to just 15 points on 5-for-12 shooting. He also registered a team-high four turnovers. According to the NBA’s tracking data, James was primarily defended by Brown and Ojeleye. 

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9. Monday’s victory marked the first time in Walker’s nine-year career that he came out on top against James. He initially seemed to shrug off the feat, noting he was more pleased with how the team performed as a whole. When pressed, though, Walker admitted he’s glad his winless streak is over. “I’m happy I got one at least before he goes, even though who knows how long he can play because he’s incredible,” he said. “But it’s only one.” Walker, who was previously 0-28 against James, expressed the “utmost respect” for the three-time champion. “He’s one of the greatest players of all time,” Walker said. “If there’s anybody, it’s him. A guy I couldn’t beat, it’ll be him. He’s such a great player.”

10. The Celtics racked up 139 points, the most the now 34-9 Lakers have given up this season. Entering Monday’s game, Los Angeles owned the league’s third-best offensive rating (113.1) and had limited opponents to an average 105.6 points. Boston’s offensive firepower showed what the Celtics are capable of producing when at full strength. 

“This is what we should be on a nightly basis, and what we’d like to be,” Walker said. “Hopefully, the way played tonight and this win can help us build.”

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