Different night, different game, different players stepping up.
Unfortunately, same result.
On the night before the trading deadline, with rumors of three of their core players being dangled in front of no less than half a dozen general managers like carrots before a horse, one of those carrots decided to show both the Celtics what they’d be losing as well as prospective trade partners what they would be getting in a trade deadline deal.
Just as the game was about to start information became available indicating that the Brooklyn Nets had tendered an offer to the Celtics, offering two players and a 1st round draft pick for future Hall-of-famer Paul Pierce, which the Celtics’ promptly – and appropriately – turned down.
Pierce responded by scoring 23 points in the first half on his way to a game-high 26, but his efforts were trumped by the cold-blooded brilliance of Steve Nash and the hustle of Earl Clark as the Los Angeles Lakers ran past and jumped over the Boston Celtics for a 113-99 victory Wednesday night at the Staples Center.
Dwight Howard led seven Lakers in double figures with 24 points and Kobe Bryant tallied 16 with 7 assists. Both Nash and Clark checked in with 14 and Antawn Jamison poured in 15 off the bench for Los Angeles, now 26-29 in this disappointing season.
Clark crashed the boards and came down with 16 big rebounds and Howard had 12 as the Lakers outrebounded the Celtics , doubling them up on the offensive boards as both players combined for 12, leading to 24 points.
Courtney Lee poured in 20 points for Boston, while Jeff Green and Jason Terry scored 15 and 10 respectively off the bench and Kevin Garnett checked in with 12.
Up by nine at halftime, the Lakers blew the game open at 75-57 in the 3rd quarter, courtesy of a Steve Nash inspired 10-0 run. Leading 65-57, Nash took over, slashing, driving and making Avery Bradley look like a rookie….grabbing two boards, assisting on a World Peace layup and a Howard Alley Oop, and scoring on a driving layup.
But the game was lost during a 4 minute span in the second quarter, again courtesy of Nash.
With 6 1/2 minutes left in the half and the Celtics were down by eight after being down by double digits much of the game when Jason Terry nailed a long trey – Nash immediately responded with a three of his own, then Nash followed a Pierce three and Bass jumper in kind, not allowing Boston to take any momentum.
Courtney Lee played a solid game for Boston, limiting Bryant to his 16 points – but that was as much defense as we would see from the Celtics. The Lakers scored 54 points in the paint, many of those on followed misses as the Celtics couldn’t seem to box out for the rebound, something that ultimately ended up costing them the game.
Boston gets a day in the sun to rest up before taking on the Suns in Phoenix Friday night before heading to Portland and Utah to close out the five games in seven nights Western Conference road trip while the Lakers host those Trailblazers on Friday night before heading out to take on the Timberwolves in Minnesota.
Suddenly, the Lakers look like world beaters and the Celtics look overwhelmed. Perhaps it has something to do with egos or anxiety with all of the rumors flying about. If it has anything to do with the Trade Deadline, they can all rest easy after 3pm Thursday – then the Celtics can get on with the business of making the playoffs.