Monday, April 4, 2016
Celtics 107 - Lakers 100: C's beat L.A., clinch playoff spot despite Kobe dropping 34
It was less than 48 hours ago that the Celtics upset the NBA champion Warriors and shocked the basketball world. Sunday night was not only a game to avenge a Lakers' loss from three months ago, but to also give a proper send off to one of game's best in Kobe Bryant the best way possible...with a loss.
Boston did just that, as they 'Beat L.A.!' for one last time in the Kobe-era, 107-100 at the Staples Center, clinching a playoff berth for a second consecutive year.
Isaiah Thomas finished with 26 points and 6 assists to lead the Celtics past Bryant for one final time. Jae Crowder, who returned to the C's lineup after sitting on Friday night due to rest, added 20 points and 5 rebounds. Evan Turner scored 17 points while Amir Johnson recorded a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds for Boston's second straight victory.
Kobe Bryant turned back the hands of time as he led all scorers with 34 points in his final showdown with the Lakers rivals, the second best performance of his final season.
"It's weird, the last time I'm facing that green," Bryant said afterwards. "It's been a joy to go against them, to be a part of a rivalry that I've watched for so long."
Julius Randle added 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, while Jordan Clarkson chipped in 17 points in the Lakers' 60th loss of the season (the worst in franchise history).
The Celtics had a 17-point lead in the first half before the Lakers cut it to nine, 57-48 by intermission. Bryant led his team with 18 points, and Los Angeles made their run, grabbing a temporary lead but Boston would end the third quarter with a 77-75 advantage heading into the final frame.
Lakers got to within four points as Bryant hit a jumper and Randle converted a three-point play with less than a minute left in the game. The Celtics (45-32) were able to hold on to the lead after Bryant missed two late shots down the stretch, as they're now tied for the third seed with the Hawks in the East playoff race.
After the game some of the Celtics players reflected on what Bryant meant to them and their peers.
"That's the best player of my generation," said Thomas. "He changed the game, not just on the court, but off the court. He means a lot. That's my favorite player."
After 20-years and two NBA Finals meeting between the Celtics and Kobe Bryant, the rivalry was everything we could have hoped for and then some.
"This is probably the first game in a while where K.B. was dead serious for the whole game," said Lakers coach Byron Scott. "He understands it's serious."
The rejuvenated Bryant plans to play the last six games of the season for the Lakers before he officially calls it quits.
Boston completed their five-game west road trip with a 3-2 record as they return home. At 45-32 they will take on the 29-47 New Orleans Pelicans at the TD Garden on Wednesday. Tip-off is at 7:30 PM ET.
Celtics shot 45 percent to the Lakers 41-percent from the field for the night. Boston assisted 30 times on 41 made baskets to 22 assists on 37 baskets for Los Angeles. Avery Bradley did not play on Sunday due to the birth of his second child, Evan Turner started in his place. Speaking of Turner, the young vet had trouble opening his left eye after a late-game collision with Randle caused some bleeding. No further updates were given once the game concluded.
To re-live some of the best Celtics-Kobe moments through out his 20-year career, click here
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Picture via: Getty Images