Five takeaways from the Lakers’ 108-107 win over the Celtics
Lakers forward Julius Randle knocks the ball away form Celtics guard Kyrie Irving during the fourth quarter of a game Tuesday at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. collides with Celtics guard Marcus Morris while grabbing a rebound during a game Tuesday at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers forward Brandon Ingram drives past Celtics center Al Horford, left, and Kyrie Irving during the fourth quarter of game Tuesday at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
As Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson celebrates, Celtics guard Marcus Smart looks down after missing the potential game-winning shot at the end of a game Tuesday at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
The Lakers’ bench celebrates a a basket by teamate Kyle Kuzma, not pictured, during a game Tuesday against the Celtics at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers forward Julius Randle dunks the ball during the fourth quarter of a game Tuesday at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Josh Hart is fouled by Celtics center Al Horford late in the fourth quarter of a game Tuesday at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers forward Julius Randle battles for a rebound with Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, left, and center Al Horford during a game Tuesday at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers guard Tyler Ennis has his shot blocked by Celtics center Aron Baynes during the first quarter of a game Tuesday at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Lakers forward Julius Randle is forced into a jump ball by Celtics guard Kyrie Irving, right, as Al Horford helps on defense during a game Tuesday at Staples Center.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
After a rocky start without Lonzo Ball, the Lakers have now won three games in a row while their point guard recovers from a knee sprain.
Here are five takeaways from the Lakers’ 108-107 win over the Boston Celtics.
1. Josh Hart and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope each missed a pair of free throws in the game’s final 20 seconds. In all the Lakers missed 15 free throws last night. Caldwell-Pope is actually a very good free-throw shooter generally, and while he’s made a lower percentage this year than he has in the past, he’s still shooting better than any of his teammates. After the game Hart posted a message on Twitter asking Caldwell-Pope if he wanted to shoot some free throws on Wednesday. Caldwell-Pope said he might meet Hart there and then Larry Nance Jr. asked if he could join. There will likely be some extra work mandated by their coach, but given that free throw shooting is such a mental task, it might take more than practice them to turn the Lakers’ fortunes.
2. I asked Lakers coach Luke Walton if it’s harder to impress upon his team the importance of free-throw shooting when they’re shooting poorly and still beating good teams. He said he’d hope the team remembers how often they lost games earlier in the season because of their free-throw shooting. They would at least have had one win over the Warriors with a better free throw percentage.
3. Kyle Kuzma had a showdown with Kyrie Irving during the fourth quarter. Irving scored 12 fourth-quarter points, and Kuzma scored 17. For a few moments, they were countering each other. Kuzma was asked if he’d like to be the type of closer Irving is, and Kuzma said with a little more experience and work he wants to be. Of course, even though Irving has been a good closer in the past, the Celtics relied on Marcus Smart at the end of this one.
4. Under direction of his coaches, Kuzma is working to make sure that his offense doesn’t just revolve around scoring. “The past 10, 12 games I’ve done a pretty good job of really facilitating too,” Kuzma said. “Getting teammates into makes. Not really having nights where I have 20 points, zero assists. Just trying to find guys.” Walton said there is a fine line the coaches have to walk when teaching Kuzma about shot selection. They like his gunslinger mentality, they just need him to better understand when to employ it.
5. Nance, and others, are being coy about their participation in the slam dunk contest. While Nance was at shoot-around, a report surfaced that he was among the players who had accepted an invitation to the slam dunk contest. When Walton finished his post-shoot-around news conference, Nance called to him, in a joking manner, “Luke, there’s no confirmation of that!” He seemed to think Walton had spilled the beans. Later, Nance appeared to refute the report, which said he accepted a position in the contest, by conjuring President Trump’s favorite phrase and calling it “fake news.” (Dennis Smith Jr. attempted a denial too, likely in an effort to allow the league to announce the contest on their own.) Nance, of course, is an obvious choice for the contest. His father won the first-ever dunk contest and were it not for injuries, he might have been in it already. This year, he’d have a chance to compete in the contest in his home arena.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli
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