All year, big wings have given the Los Angeles Lakers buckets.
Despite edging the Boston Celtics 114-112 on Sunday night, Celtics SF Jayson Tatum dropped 41 points on 12-20 shooting. While it was not enough to out-duel the star power of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, who combined for 61 points, it still showed what has become a consistent chink in the Lakers’ armor.
As far as title contenders go, Tatum joined the ranks of Kawhi Leonard, Ben Simmons and Pascal Siakam for forwards to go off against the Lakers. The Lakers are just 1-4 against those players, with the most concern coming from the Los Angeles Clippers. Leonard has totaled 65 points in two wins this season for the Lakers.
Their current rotation features forwards Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Kyle Kuzma players who are better on offense. Their recent acquisition of Markieef Morris could help, but one Western Conference executive is skeptical.
But as they’ve done most of the year however, the Lakers found a way to win.
This time it was LeBron doing his best Kobe Bryant impression. With 30 seconds remaining and trailing the 110-109, James got the ball on the wing and backed down Jalyen Brown. After four dribbles and a shoulder shimmy he faded away from Brown and launched, tickling the twine to put the Lakers up by one.
“I had been setting him up all night with the back-down to the drop step to the baseline,” James said. “I figured he would sit on it, thinking I would try it again, so I just went to my back-down, gave a little Dream Shake to the baseline and was able to open up the middle and get my fadeaway.”
Those were the most important of his 29 points, a statistic he supplemented with eight rebounds and nine assists. Anthony Davis poured in 32 of his own while hauling in 13 rebounds, including the game icing free throws. One missed free throw with five seconds remaining left the window cracked for the Celtics; but a Tatum charge sealed it shut.
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) February 23, 2020
Despite coming up short, Tatum said he was not discouraged after the game.
“It was a step in the right direction,” he said. “I definitely looked up to those guys and know how great they are individually, so just trying to earn the respect of the guys I look up to.”
At 43-12, the Lakers sit five games above the Denver Nuggets in first place in the west and are on a five game winning streak dating to before the All-Star break.
While not in first in the East, the Celtics are also in strong position sitting at third with a record of 39-17. They have also been playing well of late, winning eight of their last ten games despite Sunday’s loss.