The latest change Lakers Coach Byron Scott made to his starting lineup and rotation was all about making sure his team stays “hungry” for the final 27 regular-season games.
Scott started forward Carlos Boozer against the Boston Celtics on Sunday night, coincidentally for the first time since Dec. 5 at Boston. Boozer didn’t even play in the Lakers’ previous game, Friday against Brooklyn.
The Lakers played with the hunger Scott wanted, wavering at times in the fourth quarter when they coughed up a 10-point lead, but staying the course to pull out a 118-111 overtime victory over the Celtics at Staples Center.
“We just hung in there,” Scott said. “It probably shouldn’t have even went into overtime. But give our guys a lot of credit for being resilient enough to bounce back.”
With reserves Jeremy Lin and Wesley Johnson recording season highs of 25 and 22 points, respectively, the Lakers broke a seven-game losing streak and beat a Celtics team Scott still calls Los Angeles’ biggest rival — a team he still hates and relishes defeating.
“I’m enjoying this a lot more,” Scott said about beating the Celtics. “I’m a happy man tonight.”
Reserves Lin, Johnson, Ronnie Price and Nick Young played a big part in the Lakers’ not quitting.
“I thought we played hard,” Scott said. “We competed all night long. That’s what I’m looking for. We had some guys that came in tonight and stepped up, especially our guys off the bench.
“Jeremy had a great game. Wesley Johnson had a great game. So we had a lot of guys contribute tonight.”
The Lakers did compete in building a 100-90 lead in the fourth quarter, but they didn’t finish the job.
Young had an opportunity to seal the game, but he made just one of two free throws for a 106-103 Lakers lead with 8.2 seconds left, leaving the door open for the Celtics.
Then, instead of fouling as the clock was winding down, Lin watched Avery Bradley drill a three-pointer at the buzzer, sending the game into overtime.
It was a reminder of an earlier game against Milwaukee when the Lakers failed to foul O.J. Mayo, who hit a tying three-pointer to send it into overtime. The Lakers lost that game.
“That’s twice that I was thinking about [fouling] and they hit a three and we went into overtime,” Scott said. “So I don’t know if I’ll think about it next time. We might just do it.”
But Young, like the rest of his teammates, didn’t give in. Young finished with 19 points in the game and blocked a shot in the overtime, when the Lakers outscored the Celtics, 12-5, to pull out the win.
“We just chose to go out there and just keep fighting,” Young said. “It was a rivalry game. I think we just all went out there and said, ‘Forget it, and just play.’”