The media tried to turn up the hype before the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers first meeting of the season by trying to compare this game with the brighter days of the rivalry. Those days are long gone, with the Celtics running on fumes of a would-be dynasty while the Lakers look to be completely falling apart.
But we’ll start with the good, the Boston Celtics, winning six consecutive games as the memory of Rajon Rondo playing for the team hardly sticking in anyone’s mind? What?! We had the point guard with the highest assist average in the NBA? We’re much better this way. The Celtics came out with energy, the Lakers didn’t. It wasn’t the whole story, but it pretty much sums it up.
Paul Pierce has been fantastic over the last couple of weeks, doing pretty much everything, although taking it easier when it comes to scoring, adding more in rebounding and assists. Against a lost-looking Lakers team, with Dwight Howard playing injured because Kobe Bryant dragged an entire team to call him out through the media, there was no problem for Pierce (25 points) and the rest of the Celtics to make an easy dinner of the team that doesn’t look like it’ll make the postseason.
The Celtics went 21-35 inside five feet Thursday, making one less field goal from inside 5 feet (16) han the Lakers attempted (17) through three quarters, as the C’s lead by as much as 26, eventually winning 116-95. It’s no surprise, as the Lakers are one of the worst in the NBA, despite having Dwight Howard, in protecting the rim, allowing the fifth most points per game inside 5 feet in the NBA (35.6).
Dwight Howard didn’t do that bad, but he played only 28 minutes, hampered by his shoulder and foul trouble. With the Lakers trailing by 13 with 6:52 to go in the third quarter, Howard went to the bench with his fourth foul and the Celtics made 12 of their 14 shots (86%) the rest of the quarter, outscoring the Lakers by 13. Dwight Howard might not be as tough as Kobe Bryant wants him to be, but without Pau Gasol, it’s hard to think of someone as important.
The Celtics, unlike their win against the Raptors, were in rhythm and hot from the first minute, finishing with 25 assists and shooting 52.9% from the field, taking good shots (5-11 from beyond the arc) and spacing the floor well, looking like a team that knows how to get everyone involved, with six players in double figures. Kevin Garnett scored 15 points.
We’re in a rhythm. We’re moving the ball. Some day when I’m rocking in a rocking chair having a cigar and thinking what I’ve done, I’m sure it’ll make some sense to me (talking about reaching 25,000 career points), but the first priority was the Lakers.
For the Lakers, it’s back to losing, with the Bobcats and the Heat still left on their exhausting road trip, which went pretty well until they landed in Boston. They’re now 23-27, below .500 for only the third time in over 35 years. Kobe Bryant may have gotten to Dwight Howard by calling him out and pretty much saying he was soft, but an injured Howard doesn’t help anyone – not himself and not the Lakers, not to mention that the social situation might be worse than ever, maybe irreparable.