While the Boston Celtics find themselves on the tail end of one of their longest road trips of the season, the Los Angeles Lakers finally are home following the longest trek of the campaign.
The longtime rivals can compare travel notes when they meet for the first time this season in a duel at Los Angeles.
Each franchise has won 17 NBA championships, with the teams meeting in the NBA Finals 12 times. This season, though, the Celtics stand out as the top team in the NBA, while the Lakers are only now improving after an abysmal start.
The Lakers six-game East Coast trip ended as a break-even, .500 venture and was a microcosm of their up-and-down season. There were injuries, illnesses, promising victories (in Milwaukee) and disappointing defeats (hello, Philadelphia).
In the end, when the Lakers needed a victory Sunday against the lowly Detroit Pistons, with tired bodies and the desire to be home already, they went with a plan that is delivering the most consistent positive results.
LeBron James and Anthony Davis powered the way to a 124-117 victory at Detroit, scoring 35 and 34 points, respectively. James scored 13 of his points in the decisive fourth quarter, while Davis had Los Angeles ready for its late push with 17 points in the third.
“The hardest game on a six-game road trip is always the last one,” James said. “You’ll be looking forward to getting back to your own bed, getting back to your own rhythm, getting back to your own place. So for us to come out and play the way we played … was huge.”
The Celtics were able to stretch their legs in Los Angeles on Monday, yet it merely ended in a non-competitive 113-93 loss to the Clippers. Jaylen Brown scored 21 points while Jayson Tatum scored 20 points with 11 rebounds as Boston was held under 100 points for the first time this season.
The Celtics are now 3-2 on their road trip that ends Tuesday. Boston won each of the first three games since leaving home and had won eight of nine before an NBA Finals rematch against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. Like last spring’s title matchup, it was the Warriors who got the best out of the meeting with a 123-107 victory.
Against the Clippers, the Celtics played without Al Horford for the fourth consecutive game. Horford missed the first three games of the stretch while in health and safety protocol, with his status Monday labeled as “personal.” He is expected back for Friday’s home game against the Orlando Magic.
The Celtics looked a step slower than the Clippers, who had Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the court for just the eighth time this season. The duo torched Boston for 51 combined points on a night when the Celtics shot 43.4 percent from the field.
“When you get great looks and don’t make them, you have to find other ways to win,” Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla said. “When you get outshot by 14 (field goal attempts), it’s hard.
“We have to find ways to one, get our shooting rhythm back … and then two, decrease the margin of error whether it’s with our turnovers, offensive rebounds (and) just getting those extra possessions.”
–Field Level Media