Before the Lakers played the Boston Celtics on Friday night, Coach Luke Walton said he wanted this one a little bit more, given the history of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry.
The truth is that right now that rivalry is a bit one-sided.
On Friday, it was just an elite team beating an overmatched team.
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 115-95 loss to the Celtics.
1. The Lakers’ energy to start was generally good, but they got frustrated as the Celtics built a lead anyway. When this team gets frustrated, it tends to play a bit selfishly and stop moving the ball, and that’s what started to happen.
2. Walton allowed his starters to start the second half, but pulled them about three minutes into the third quarter. He didn’t like that the offense was stagnant and the Lakers had been giving up too many transition baskets. The second unit helped get the Lakers back into things, but they were also the group who allowed a low point in the game.
3. That low point came when Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas threw a lob off the backboard to teammate Jaylen Brown, who dunked it. Walton was angered by that — not at Thomas, but at his own team. “Little bit of anger,” he said of how the play made him feel. “Little bit of frustration because that’s a team showboating on our home court. It’s because of, in my opinion, we gave up those types of transition buckets. We’re not giving effort to get back, which is the reason I pulled the starters in the third quarter. They stopped passing and they stopped getting back on defense. That’s not how we’re going to play. That’s not why the fans fill this arena to watch. It’s not enjoyable to watch teams showboating on your home court, but if I’m them, why not? We’re not running back on defense, rub it in our face. Hopefully it pisses the players off.”
4. David Nwaba signed a 10-day contract on Tuesday. He had butterflies in his first game at Staples Center, against the Charlotte Hornets, but still played well enough to impress Walton. On Friday he was a big part of the Lakers’ comeback effort, and got significant minutes late in the game. “I felt good out there,” Nwaba said. “Little bit of confidence. I know what it feels like after the first game. Felt a lot better. Less nerves.” His performance again impressed Walton, who said he was “awesome.”
5. There was good news for the Lakers despite a lopsided loss. The Phoenix Suns won on Friday, giving the Lakers a one-game lead on their way to the second-worst record in the NBA. The Brooklyn Nets have only won 10 games and are well on their way to a basement finish. The lower a team is in the standings, the more likely they are to have a higher first-round pick. The added stake for the Lakers is that should their top pick fall out of the top three, the Lakers will lose it.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli