BOSTON - There are so many narratives swirling around the NBA right now. Is Jimmy Butler going through second-half fatigue? Will Zion Williamson lead the Pelicans to a playoff berth? Could Markelle Fultz finally be back? Does Kawhi Leonard have the will to lead another long-term losing franchise to a title? It is a thrilling time to be a fan of basketball, but no games have made that as evident as yesterday's nationally televised matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers.
In what turned out to be one of the best games of the entire NBA season thus far, the Lakers wound up topping the Celtics by a score of 114-112, as shared by ESPN. But the game was an undeniably neck-and-neck affair that proved to fans once and for all that the rivalry between these two storied franchises is officially back and in high gear.
The final minute of the game was mired in the controversy of bad officiating and poor shot selection, but both factors affected the Celtics and the Lakers. If this game is played one hundred times, I would be willing to bet that a fairly even split between the two rosters would result.
The game began with a tribute to Kobe Bryant, the late Lakers legend, which included an appearance by Bill Russell, who actually wore a Lakers jersey (Kobe's) to the game. Fittingly, the game also ended with something resembling a tribute to Kobe as LeBron James put the Lakers on his back in the fourth quarter. And Jayson Tatum played with the sort of tenacity that seemed to evoke Bryant's old style of play. Tatum continues to break into the mold of a star and his 41 points last night was an absolute treasure to watch. It often seemed like he was the best player on the court!
With the game coming to an end, the Celtics officially fell to 39-17 on the season and the Lakers improved to 43-12. They didn't get any closer to that two seed, but the game against the Lakers is the closest thing a team can get to a moral victory (if such a thing exists). To hang with them so well that the odds were in their favor is impressive enough, considering the poor officiating on both sides of the ball. But to do so without Kemba Walker in the lineup is even more remarkable. If the Celtics can continue to build on the run they're tearing off right now, then the rest of the league should be shaking in their boots come post-season time.
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