Rajon Rondo wanted to avenge the Rams Super Bowl loss to the Patriots.
Rondo drained a jumper at the buzzer and the Los Angeles Lakers stunned the Boston Celtics, 129-128, on Thursday night at the TD Garden Arena.
The waning minutes of the game were a back-and-forth battle between both teams before Kyrie Irving gave the Celtics a 128-127 lead with just over 10 seconds remaining.
Lakers’ forward Brandon Ingram drove the baseline, but his reverse layup was blocked by Al Horford. The ball then bounced around before eventually landing in the hands of Rondo who quickly put up a fadeaway jumper at the buzzer that hit nothing but net.
Game. Set. Match.
“Home. This is where it all started,” said the former Celtic who played his first 10 seasons with Boston on the TNT broadcast after the win. “Believe it or not, I’ve always dreamed of something like this.”
Lakers’ head coach Luke Walton believed it was a fitting ending for a player who meant so much to the Celtics championship runs.
“What a perfect ending,” said Walton. “Rondo is an incredible basketball player. You can see the love he has for this city and in this building. The ball finding him at the end of the game was a beautiful ending to the game tonight.”
Two days after suffering the worst loss in his NBA career (42 points), LeBron James and the Lakers bounced back with arguably their best win of the season.
The historic matchup between the Lakers and Celtics marked just the third game for LeBron James after he missed 17 games due to a strained groin suffered on Christmas Day.
James joined legends Magic Johnson and Elgin Baylor as the only Lakers to record a triple-double in Boston. James finished with 28 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.
The Lakers’ superstar appears to be back to full strength, playing in consecutive games for the first time since the injury.
“I’m starting to get more and more back to myself,” said James. “Every possession, every quarter, every time I take a hit, I’m able to nudge it off and keep going. I’m working my way back and I’m getting better and better every single minute.”
The Lakers struggled early, trailing by as many as 18 points in the second quarter, before storming back in the second half, scoring a game-high 42 points—the most they’ve had in any quarter this season—to take a seven-point lead near the end of the third quarter.
“I think Lance [Stephenson] was a big thing to get us back in the game,” said Lakers guard Kyle Kuzma to reporters about the comeback. “We were struggling for offense and he came in and scored nine points. He was key in our comeback.”
Kuzma scored 25 points, and Javale McGee and Rondo each had 17 in the starting lineup. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope had 17 and Lance Stephenson chipped in 14 off the bench.
The Celtics were led by Kyrie Irving who had 24 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds. Jayson Tatum had 22 points and 10 rebounds, and Al Horford chipped in 12 points.
The Boston bench was unbelievable on Thursday night, outscoring the Lakers, 61-to-31.
Daniel Theis led the second unit with 20 points, Terry Rozier had 19, and Jaylen Brown had 18 points.
The final five minutes of the fourth quarter became a one-on-one shootout between James and his former Cavaliers teammate in Irving.
The two All-Stars went back and forth at each other in a showdown of two former champions that went through a very public breakup before the 2017 season.
Irving had the last bucket, but LeBron got the last laugh as his Lakers bounced back from one of their ugliest losses of the year, to collecting one of their best wins of the year.
“This is definitely a confidence builder,” said Lakers’ forward Brandon Ingram. “We just need to continue to get better every single day.”
The Lakers made a franchise record 22 three-pointers. The previous record was 19, last month at Oklahoma City.
Los Angeles has had a rough week against Boston after the Rams lost to the Patriots, 13-3, on Sunday in Super Bowl LIII.
“I’m pretty familiar with the rivalry, but it’s still basketball at the end of the day,” said Rondo when asked what it meant for Los Angeles to get a win in the LA-Boston rivalry.”
The Celtics lost for just the second time at home since Jan. 15, and have still won 10 of their last 12 games overall despite the ldefeat.
Los Angeles remains in 10th place in the Western Conference, but are now just 1.5 games behind the Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Notes and Next
Lonzo Ball (ankle) missed the game for the Lakers. The Celtics were without Aron Baynes (foot) and Jabari Bird (personal). Los Angeles traded Svi Mykhailiuk for Reggie Bullock on Wednesday, and traded Michael Beasley and Ivica Zubac to the Clippers for Mike Muscala.
Los Angeles will continue their road trip as they travel to Philadelphia to take on the new-look 76ers on Sunday.