Anthony Davis returns, helps Lakers edge rival Celtics to end two-game skid
After everything that had transpired over the previous 47-plus minutes, did the hustle of Alex Caruso, a player simply running back on defense as hard as he could, somehow help the Lakers eke out the tightest of wins?
In a one-point game, everything matters, especially playing hard as hell.
“Alex just flies from the corner out of nowhere,” coach Frank Vogel said on a videoconference.
Caruso sprinting back to get between the basket and the Celtics’ fast break was enough to give the Lakers the slightest of edges, helping them hang on to win 96-95 in a wild finish Saturday night in Boston.
“That’s just who we are,” LeBron James added.
Forty years ago, Andrea Bassani arrived in Italy with tapes of a Lakers vs. Celtics game as part of an effort to introduce Europe to the NBA.
With a one-point lead and the ball right where it was supposed to be, the Lakers’ offense stalled and sputtered. Davis got the ball on the left block, but as the clock ticked down, he never got open. Desperate to beat the shot clock, he spun right into the Celtics’ defense, turning the ball over and putting Boston on the break with a chance to win.
But Caruso, a player who has earned his minutes on a championship team with moments just like this, sprinted back to get between Jaylen Brown and the basket, giving the Lakers a sliver of a chance to hang on.
Save for Caruso’s heart and horsepower, it’s hard to think how things could’ve gone worse in the final 30 seconds with them still leaving the court as winners. Luck, though, especially in the middle of the longest scheduled trip of the year, is never discouraged.
“A long road trip can get to anybody,” Davis said.
But after losing in Detroit and Philadelphia, the Lakers would’ve happily taken points from Bob Cousy if it meant stopping their losing streak at two games.
Highlights from the Lakers’ 96-95 road victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday night.
Both Theis and Boston backup Robert Williams tipped rebounds into their own basket, giving the Lakers four points that ended up meaning the difference between a win and a loss.
Against the 76ers, the Lakers couldn’t get a stop on the final play of the game and against the Pistons, they couldn’t get a score. Saturday in the fourth quarter, they were much better at both, erasing a seven-point deficit at the start of the quarter in a little more than two minutes.
With Vogel cutting Markieff Morris and Wesley Matthews out of his rotation for the night in an effort to keep everyone in better rhythm, the Lakers’ bench responded, outscoring the Celtics’ reserves 34-15.
“It’s the toughest part of the job,” Vogel said of tightening his rotation.
The bench’s work, paired with 27 points and 14 rebounds from Davis and 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists from James — including three big second-half threes — helped the Lakers escape on a night their best was still clearly out of reach.
In one third-quarter sequence, Montrezl Harrell went to his spot. James threw it to another. The Celtics took the ball the other way and scored, a reminder of who the Lakers are today and how much work there’s still to do to get to where they want to be by the end of the season.
This was one of the NBA’s great pick-and-roll players with one of the NBA’s best all-time passers, a preface and an epilogue away from being on the same page.
For the Lakers to be great, they’ll have to iron out these things. But for them to win, even against a contender, talent and effort can be good enough.
They showed that in the fourth quarter, holding the Celtics to 17 points and committing just one turnover while forcing seven.
“When we need stops, we’re going to get them,” Davis said. “Playing hard, playing scrappy.”
All things Lakers, all the time.
Get all the Lakers news you need in Dan Woike's weekly newsletter.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.