Below is a running diary of L.A.’s Thursday evening contest at Boston, the Lakers looking for a fourth consecutive win, with some comments drawn from our @LakersReporter Twitter account, and a few more details in case you missed any of the action:
Lakers: Nash, Bryant, World Peace, Clark and Howard
Celtics: A. Bradley, C. Lee, P. Pierce, B. Bass, K. Garnett
5:20 L.A. got some good news on the injury front about 30 minutes before tip off, when they learned that Dwight Howard would return after missing three games with his ailing right shoulder. In the first six minutes, Howard converted a lefty hook and a 15-foot jumper, but he missed his other three shots, and was hesitant toward contact on the defensive end.
0:00 Boston took a 4-point lead out of the first quarter largely because the Lakers couldn’t make a free throw, converting only 5 of 12, including 1 of 4 from Howard. Bryant had eight points with six boards, but the Lakers had only four assists on eight field goals, poor for a team whose ball movement has been so good of late.
9:49 It was all Boston to start the second quarter, the home team opening on an 8-2 run to allow a 35-25 lead after Jeff Green grabbed the seventh offensive board of the game and turned it into free throws, this a Celtics team that averages only 8.5 offensive boards per game (28th in the NBA) and ranks 29th overall on the glass.
3:45 Boston’s lead swelled to 13 points, with Jeff Green scoring twice at the rim to reach 11 bench points in 14 minutes, and Jason Terry hitting the second Celtics triple. Earl Clark answered with a long two, but two KG free throws on the other end kept the lead at 53-40 as Howard returned after a five-minute rest. The Lakers did not have good energy on either end, Howard seemingly struggling to get too involved and perhaps being concerned with his shoulder. The lead grew to as many as 16 before Kobe’s tough jumper with three seconds left created a 58-44 margin. L.A.’s energy was not good in the second, by any definition.
3:22 Little turned around for the Lakers out of halftime, despite plenty more Kobe points (26 on 9 of 14 field goals) as they couldn’t get a stop. Paul Pierce scored nine straight points to help Boston open its biggest lead at 81-64, the D just not there. Howard committed two early fouls in the quarter and took a seat on the bench, with the small line up of Clark at the five doing little to curtail Boston’s effort on O.
0:00 And then, well, the Celtics got insanely hot and started to make everything. They literally hit 14 of their final 16 shots of the quarter, scoring 14 points in the final three minutes alone, to open a 95-69 lead heading into the final quarter, ending the game for all intents and purposes. Bryant was up to 27 points with seven boards, but nobody else but Jamison (12 points) was in double figures. Bryant was without an assist, though it wasn’t his fault, as teammates combined to miss all kinds of open shots off his passes. MWP was 2 for 13, Jodie Meeks 1 for 6, Howard 4 for 8 and Clark 1 for 4, even Nash going 4 for 9. This was the first very poor game for the Lakers in a few weeks, as they’d played consistently in winning six of seven games.
7:00 The game well out of hand, Howard did stay in it, perhaps D’Antoni looking for him to find some sort of rhythm and energy as he dealt with his sore right shoulder. Howard had amassed nine points and nine boards in 26 minutes, but wasn’t moving great on either end. Scoreboard wise, Boston’s lead was at 103-75 after two free throws from Steve Blake (LAL 16 of 27 for the game).
0:00 The only question after a poor all-around effort from the Lakers was whether this was a 1-game relapse, or a return to what we’d seen far too often earlier in the season. If L.A. responds with a better effort at Charlotte and at Miami, it’s the former, the team having turned a corner by winning six of seven games behind energy on D and sharing of the ball on O. But if it’s the latter, even a late playoff push will be in serious jeopardy. We’ll see in less than 24 hours, from Charlotte. The final tonight: Boston 116, L.A. 95.