After a decade of preventing their arch rivals from winning the season series, the Lakers were finally unable to hold off the Boston Celtics.
The purple and gold had either won or split each series with Boston since 2007, but this time the Celtics followed up their February win by rolling past the Lakers at Staples Center, 115-95.
The loss reached its low point in the third quarter, as head coach Luke Walton pulled his starters after Boston’s Isaiah Thomas served up an off-the-backboard alley-oop to Jaylen Brown.
“(The starters) stopped passing and getting back on defense,” Walton said. “That’s not how we are going to play, and that’s not why the fans fill this arena. Obviously it’s not enjoyable to watch teams showboating on your home court. But if I’m (the Celtics), why not?
“If we aren’t running back on defense, rub it in our face. Hopefully it pisses the players off, and next time it happens we’ll use the energy to get down there and contest it.”
But the highlight slam was just part of a rough night for the Lakers (19-43).
Boston jumped out to a double-digit lead within the game’s first eight minutes and never let up, building its cushion up to 25 by halftime by scoring a season-high 70 points at intermission.
“I feel like we got down a little bit when those guys were hitting shots,” Jordan Clarkson said. “When they went on their little run, we kind of got down, and we just have to figure out a way to keep playing through that.”
Then, Clarkson — who had gone scoreless on six shots in the first half — singlehandedly made it a game by going off for 20 points in the third quarter alone.
The 24-year-old shot 7-of-9 in this explosive frame, and took a 10-point bite out of the Lakers’ deficit. But he, too, fizzled out in the fourth quarter. He missed all four of his shots in the final frame, as Boston quickly built its lead back up to 20-plus points for the majority of the period.
“I don’t think we can put two halves together yet,” said Brandon Ingram, who went scoreless on two attempts. “We weren’t ready to compete in the first half and they just made shots. I think it’s just a matter of us putting all 48 minutes together.”
While Clarkson led all players with his 20 points, the Celtics (40-22) simply played better as a team, as six of their players scored at least 13.
At the head of the group was the NBA’s second-leading scorer, Thomas, who only needed 18 points to guide his team’s win. Nicknamed the “King in the Fourth” because he leads the NBA in fourth-quarter scoring, Thomas’ services were unnecessary in the last period, as Boston’s lead allowed him to rest the entirety of it.
Boston shot 51.2 percent from the field and led by as many as 31 points. … D’Angelo Russell had 17 points for the Lakers. … D-Fenders call-up David Nwaba scored his first points in the NBA. … A crowd of 18,997 sold out Staples Center.