BOSTON — Following the Los Angeles Lakers’ worst loss of the season and one of the worst defeats in the history of their rivalry with the Boston Celtics, LeBron James saw no use in sugarcoating it.
“I mean, listen, it was just a good, old-fashioned butt whooping,” James said after L.A.’s 139-107 loss. “That’s all. They beat us in all facets of the game: outside, interior, points off turnovers, offensive rebounds. So it’s the main ingredients in the L.”
It was only the seventh instance in the history of the Lakers-Celtics regular-season rivalry in which the margin of victory was 30 or more points, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. It was the largest regular-season win by either team against the other in more than 50 years; the Lakers beat the Celtics by 35 on March 16, 1969.
“I’m pretty sure they executed their game plan. And we didn’t. It’s pretty simple,” said Lakers guard Rajon Rondo, who has experience on both sides of this rivalry. “A lot of things they were better with, we could have done better tonight as far as taking care of the ball, executing offensively. Defensively, we should have talked a lot more. But like I said, I don’t want to critique too much without watching film. But it was an ugly loss for us.”
L.A. held an 8-0 lead in the first 55 seconds of the game, then it all unraveled rather quickly.
Anthony Davis, playing in his first game back after a five-game absence following a hard fall against the New York Knicks, thought the Lakers’ problems started on the glass.
“We didn’t rebound,” said Davis, who had nine points and four rebounds in 23 minutes before he was pulled with the game out of reach. “Offensive rebounds killed us. We had some turnovers. [They were] more physical. They basically did whatever they wanted the whole night. We didn’t respond.”
The Lakers (34-9) trailed by 14 at the half and were outscored by 10 in the third quarter and by eight in the fourth. Boston (28-14) outrebounded L.A. 48-36, including 14-12 on the offensive glass, leading to a 24-14 advantage in second-chance points.
As James alluded to, it wasn’t just one thing that plagued the Lakers, however. They were outscored 27-9 in transition, according to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Information. Celtics forward Jaylen Brown, who returned after missing two games with a right thumb sprain, scored or assisted on 12 of those 27 transition points.
Lakers coach Frank Vogel implored his players to up the intensity at halftime — it’s not uncommon for this Lakers team to dig itself into a hole and then rally to make it a game — but he didn’t find any gas when he stepped on the pedal.
“‘Bring it.’ That was the halftime adjustment,” Vogel said. “We didn’t bring it in the first half. So, ‘Pick it up. Bring it.’ We tried to come out with some aggression in the second half, but credit the Celtics. They played exceptional. They’re a desperate team. They lost six out of eight. Needed a win, needed to play well, and they did.”
Kyle Kuzma, who was tied with Rondo for the Lakers’ bench scoring lead with 13 points, echoed his coach’s critique regarding the team’s spirit.
“It was just a weird game from an energy standpoint. We kind of lacked that, 1 to 15, everybody, which is unacceptable, especially for getting up for a game against Boston,” Kuzma said. “That shouldn’t be an issue. But it just happens. It’s a long season. We just had a lot of different variables for that game.”
Another aspect of the contest in which L.A. was outclassed was 3-point shooting. Boston went 16-for-34 (47.1%), and the Lakers were just 7-for-26 (26.9%). The Celtics hit more uncontested 3s (eight) than the Lakers made in total.
“We haven’t moved on yet,” James said. “Tomorrow, we will. Still simmering right now, which it should. But it’s a long NBA season. You don’t want to have games like this, but if you do, you try to learn from the mistakes. Or you do learn from the mistakes, and you move on.”