On Tuesday night at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics 108-107 in a thrilling game where rookie Kyle Kuzma scored 17 of his team-high 28 points in the fourth quarter. Kyrie Irving had 33 points in the loss.
This was a wild game.
The first quarter proved to be an forgettable, ugly slug-fest. LA only scored 15 points and missed all seven of its three-pointers in the period, while the Celtics only played mildly better and scored 21 points.
The second quarter was far more uplifting for the crowd, as the two teams combined for 62 points, with the Celtics edging the Lakers 32-30 in the period, and the visitors taking an eight-point lead into the halftime intermission.
Marcus Smart had been the Celtics' standout performer with 14 points and four assists at the break, while Jordan Clarkson continued his hot run with 14 points of his own in the first half. Smart finished with 22 points and eight assists in the game.
After the intermission, the teams came out to a festive atmosphere worthy of a playoff game. When the referees made calls against the Lakers, the crowd rose to deride the officials vociferously. Every time the Lakers scored, fist pumps and energetic screaming was ubiquitous.
On the court, the Lakers started the second half with a purpose and went on an 8-0 run to level the game at 56-56 immediately. The home team would ultimately outscore the Celtics by 10 points in the quarter and take a two-point lead into the fourth quarter, largely due to Julius Randle's energy. The bulky forward secured his double-double in the third quarter by scoring six points and grabbing eight rebounds in the period. Randle eventually finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds in 26 minutes.
In the fourth quarter, Irving seemed to get going early and created early separation for the Celtics before going to the bench for a rest. However, Kuzma stepped up to hit a couple three-pointers to get the crowd back into the game.
Then, the 22-year-old rookie forward drove to the basket, drew extra attention and pulled off a behind-the-back no-look pass to Larry Nance Jr. Nance flushed the basketball, and the Lakers led 90-89 approaching the final stretch.
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Kuzma proceeded to hit his next three-pointer and managed to get fouled on the three-point attempt after that. Showered with the familiar sounds of "Kuuuuz," the Flint, Michigan native gave the Lakers a four-point lead with 5:15 remaining in the game.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens called Irving's number immediately and put his star point guard in to close the game.
Unfortunately for the visitors, Kuzma did not seem deterred and immediately scored. Fellow rookie Josh Hart managed a tip-in moments later to give the LA a six-point lead with a shade under four minutes remaining in the ball game.
Ultimately, Kuzma scored 17 points in that final, decisive quarter.
"Kuzma, his fourth quarter was incredible tonight," Lakers coach Luke Walton said after the game.
From there, the Celtics pushed back and eventually, the clock game clock showed 90 seconds with the Lakers holding onto a two-point lead. Twenty seconds later, Randle, who had only entered the game for the final two and a half minutes, managed an offensive rebound and tip-in to give the Lakers a four-point edge: 104-100.
Still, the Celtics would not die.
After a late three-pointer by Terry Rozier, a couple missed free throws from Hart and a poorly timed foul by Randle, the Lakers and Celtics were back within one point with just under 20 seconds remaining.
LA struggled to get the ball into the front court after the Celtics chose to apply full court pressure, but Clarkson made an impressive grab to hold onto a pass that was behind him before getting fouled. Clarkson, crucially, made both free throws, and the Lakers led 108-105 with 11.6 seconds remaining.
Rather than going for the three-pointer to tie, the Celtics went for the quick lay-up and opted for a free-throw shooting contest with the Lakers. That was a smart call since the Lakers are the worst free throw shooting team in the NBA.
Leading by one point, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope came into the game and immediately got fouled with 5.7 seconds remaining. The Lakers' starting shooting guard, who had made his previous two foul shots in the game, missed both free throws.
Suddenly, the Celtics did not even need a three-pointer to win the game, but Boston had spent its final timeout, so the clock restarted the moment Caldwell-Pope missed the second free throw. Smart got up a good look at a three-pointer, but the shot did not fall.
Streamers dropped from the rafters, familiar victory music played and the crowd began to slowly trickle out of STAPLES Center after what had been an exciting, energetic game.
The Lakers beat the Celtics 108-107 to claim their third straight victory and sixth straight victory at home.
Notes: The Lakers missed 10 free throws in the fourth quarter and 15 foul shots in the game. Walton said he was "frustrated" with the free throws after the game and barely resembled a coach that had won three straight games.