Smart scored 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting in his most efficient scoring night ever, while Jayson Tatum closed the blowout with 37 points on 13-of-26.
Ime Udoka continues to stare at the Celtics’ stats slightly baffled, yet confident time will reverse Boston’s poor shooting trends (32% from deep through 15 games). The expected points, a statistic Udoka referenced throughout the past week, say the Celtics should be getting more points relative to the quality of the outside looks they’re generating.
In the meantime, Marcus Smart among other Celtics threw the deep ball in the trash (26 three-point attempts before garbage time) and took closer shots against the Lakers. Smart went downhill to trade short jumpers with Anthony Davis late in the first, hitting three consecutive 10-15 footers in the lane. The modern efficiency game is built around threes-and-layups, the Celtics finally chose the latter.
The tone Smart set in that area evolved into his and Boston’s most efficient scoring night from inside the arc all season. They rode Jayson Tatum, Dennis Schröder and Smart drives for 80 points between the trio. Tatum finished with 37 points on 13-of-26 shooting, Schröder with 21 on 8-of-14 and Smart posted his most efficient volume scoring night ever, with 22 on 9-for-13. The Celtics won 130-108, scoring 56 points in the paint to LA’s 36 and finishing 50% from the field while shooting almost exclusively inside in the fourth.
Josh Richardson and Schröder followed Smart’s lead late in the first, with Richardson hitting short jumper then a selective wide open corner three to begin a 37-21 Celtics run from late in he first until the midway point in the second that gave Boston a lead after an early 12-point deficit. Richardson posted a +40 (+/-) in the win. Smart began the game 5-for-7, pacing the Celtics offense against a Davis onslaught while Tatum struggled early (1-for-5).
Both Schröder — on a string of potential revenge games against his former Atlanta, LA and Oklahoma City teams this week — and Tatum woke up into the second. They scored 13 of Boston’s 15 points on a go-ahead run, Schröder racing by Lakers wings like Carmelo Anthony for near-automatic downhill finishes and Tatum attacking with similar aggression.
Tatum also got involved on the defensive end, turning a stop into a pull-up three, batting down a LeBron James pass to set up a Schröder layup and getting another stop on Talen Horton-Tucker he almost took the distance missing at the rim. He complained as the Lakers raced the other way and found Anthony for an open three — who pounded the triple sign to his head in front of a sizable crowd of Lakers fans in attendance.
The shouts following LA baskets grew thinner midway through the game though, with the Celtics outscoring the Lakers by 22 on their run through the end of the third quarter. Tatum hustled to tip an offense rebound out off of LeBron and stripped Russell Westbrook following Tatum’s own miss to get a breakaway dunk. Tatum found Al Horford with a flashy pass to the post from the right wing plays later, but a turnover sent LeBron sprinting to the other basket for a layup through Grant Williams’ ill-advised foul before half.
That play kept the Lakers ahead 61-60 on a night where Jaylen Brown and Robert Williams III sat and LeBron suited up following an eight-game absence with an abdominal strain. Udoka warned about LA’s fast break with James active, and it delivered a 38-30 first quarter behind Davis’ 15.
The Celtics exploded into the second half though, Smart drilling a three and floater on the drive before Schröder delivered Horford a pick-and-pop three. The Lakers called timeout and Boston never looked back. Smart hit Horford with an alley-oop, Schröder found a cutting Grant and the former Laker guard’s pair of driving finishes built a double-digit Boston lead.
All of the Celtics’ offensive activity continued to come from around the net into the fourth, Smart and Tatum trading makes inside before Romeo Langford and Tatum drew free throw to maintain the advantage. Tatum reached the 30-point mark before the six-minute mark in the final frame, tipping home Smart’s miss for a third-chance bucket and finishing two more driving layups — the second an and-one.
Boston led 109-94 as LA’s offense fell to 5-for-12 in the fourth, while the Celtics built arguably their prettiest shot chart to begin a quarter all season.
Tatum’s pull-up three with under five minutes remaining marked the Celtics’ first jump shot on only their fifth try and slammed the door shut. Horford flushed four more free throws, Udoka’s bench emptied and about three minutes later Gino played and sent yellow-and-gold donning fans toward the exit.