LOS ANGELES (AP) – Jaylen Brown scored four of his 40 points in the final minute, and the Boston Celtics blew most of a 27-point lead in the fourth quarter before holding on for their fifth straight victory, 121-113 over the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night.
Brown made 13 of his first 14 shots and hit three 3-pointers while falling two points shy of his career high for the Celtics, who have won eight of 11 despite an embarrassing finish at Staples Center.
Boston led 113-86 with seven minutes to play, shortly after coach Brad Stevens pulled his starters. But Talen Horton-Tucker and Ben McLemore led a 24-2 run by the Lakers that forced Brown and Boston’s first string back into the game.
Brown hit a floater through contact and added a leaning jumper with 32 seconds left to squelch the Lakers’ rally, and Boston split the season series between these historic rivals.
Payton Pritchard and Marcus Smart added 15 points apiece for the Celtics, who never trailed. Boston won despite just 14 points from Jayson Tatum, whose streak of scoring 20 points in 11 consecutive games ended.
Horton-Tucker scored 19 points and Marc Gasol had 18 for Los Angeles, which has alternated wins and losses since March 28.
The Lakers were welcomed back from a seven-game road trip by about 1,915 fans in the Staples Center stands in the building’s first significant sports crowd since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Along with the long-term absences of superstars Anthony Davis and LeBron James, the Lakers faced Boston without new center Andre Drummond, who has a bruised right big toe, and Markieff Morris, who has a sprained left ankle.
Dennis Schröder nearly sat out with an infection on the ball of his right foot, but contributed eight points and eight assists. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope also played through mid-game back spasms, and Gasol stayed in after appearing to injure his pinky finger significantly.
Thanks to injuries, both teams sent out starting lineups they had never used previously this season.
Boston carved up the Lakers’ starters in the first half while taking a 14-point lead. The Celtics hit 56% of their shots against the NBA’s No. 1 defense, with Brown scoring his 21 points particularly easily.
Celtics: Robert Williams III missed the game with left knee soreness and swelling. Boston was 8-2 since he joined the starting lineup at the trade deadline after Daniel Theis was moved to Chicago. … Evan Fournier missed his fifth straight game under the NBA’s health and safety protocols.
Lakers: Davis has been cleared for full on-court activities, and coach Frank Vogel is hopeful he can play next week. He hasn’t played since Feb. 14. “He’s tired of being a patient and ready to be a player again,” Vogel said.
Celtics: Host Warriors on Saturday.
Lakers: Host Jazz on Saturday.
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