Boston Celtics fall just short in controversial finish against Lakers

Refs impact game that leads to a 114-112 loss for the Boston Celtics against LeBron and the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Boston Celtics fell to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Western Conference’s best, by a score of 114-112 on a Sunday afternoon. In a game that was one of the year’s best for the first 47 minutes, the last minute was tampered by controversial officiating, leading to a lengthy finish.

This was the best game of Jayson Tatum‘s career, on the league’s biggest stage. He finished with 41 points while shooting 12/20 from the field, to go along with 13/15 from the line. He tied his career-high set earlier this year, and was the best player on the court — a court that had LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

He was getting his way against any defender that came in his path — whether it was Avery Bradley, Anthony Davis, or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. In the second quarter, he drove to the lane continuously, finishing everything around the rim over Dwight Howard. He used Daniel Theis‘ sealing ability effectively, getting easy runs to the rim for the Celtics’ offense.

Tatum is a superstar, and now the world knows it.

Jaylen Brown hit big shots down the stretch when Tatum was getting double-teamed by Lakers defenders. He finished with a solid 20 points on 8/19 from the field. He had the assignment of defending LeBron throughout the majority of the game, and often stood his ground reasonably well. In years past, Brown has struggled in this particular matchup, yet showed his growth in this game.

Gordon Hayward had an all around game — scoring 10 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and racking up nine assists. Although he struggled from the field, shooting 5/15, he didn’t have an awful game by any means. He struggled with wild passes at points during this game, but again proved his worth in running the offense, especially with Kemba Walker out once again.

Theis continued his excellent play, finishing with 16 points and nine rebounds. At times, he got abused by the Lakers size — often with two seven footers on the floor at the same time — but he mostly held his own on the offensive end. He is becoming more and more efficient, as he scored 16 points on only seven shots.

The Boston Celtics bench, similar to their last game against Minnesota, left much to be desired. The bench only scored 11 points, and struggled to find playing time down the stretch.

Brad Wanamaker played 18 minutes, only finishing with two points, three rebounds and three assists. He also had a plus/minus of -11 and three turnovers. Usually Wanamaker is reliable in big games, yet could not find himself in this one, hindering the offensive production for the Boston Celtics. Similarly, Enes Kanter only played five minutes at the end of the first quarter, and could not find his place in the game.

Last matchup between these two teams, Kanter was dominant on the offensive glass. This time around, he was getting beat repeatedly on defense, making coach Brad Stevens option to the rookie Grant Williams.

Williams and Romeo Langford had decent games off the bench, scoring four and five respectively. It’s tough to expect insane production from rookies in nationally televised games, but they held their own on both ends of the court.

In the last minute of the game, the referees took over, angering many Celtics fans. First, they called a foul on Daniel Theis when he was nowhere near the play, forcing Stevens to use his challenge to change the foul call to Jaylen Brown to keep Theis from fouling out. Then, a 5+ minute review was held, trying to figure out if a ball tipped out of bounds was off of Anthony Davis or any of the Celtics players.

Despite multiple angles showing it was off of Davis’ pinky, the referees upheld the call, citing there was not enough evidence to overturn it. At this point, James made a fall away jumper over Jaylen Brown to put the Lakers up by one. Then, on the next Celtics’ possession, the referees swallowed their whistle on an arguable foul on Jayson Tatum from Caldwell-Pope, and then called a technical foul on Brad Stevens in the last 15 seconds of the game.

Luckily, Anthony Davis missed the free throw, but the refs should never call a technical foul that late in a close game. It makes the game about the referees rather than the actual basketball players, which is what fans pay to see.

In the end, you can argue about these calls and if they were egregious or not. But the Celtics have a right to be angry about the sloppiness down the stretch from the referees. That’s not to say they didn’t have their fair share of chances — they failed to execute down the stretch as well. However, the officiating in the last minute of the game put a sour taste in the mouth of many fans, something that tainted an otherwise great game.

As for the Lakers, the All-Star duo of Anthony Davis and LeBron James combined for 61 points on 19/44 from the field. The Celtics did an alright job of limiting their offensive production, but it’s difficult to stop them from getting to the rim in an undersized matchup. Kyle Kuzma also had an excellent game, scoring 16 points off the bench.

Former Celtic Rajon Rondo played 22 impactful minutes, scoring only four points, but recording five assists and five steals to disrupt the Boston Celtics offense. He seems to always play well against the C’s, as he hit a game winning buzzer beater against them last year in TD Garden.

All in all, the Boston Celtics lost a game they could have won. Whether it was because of failed execution or debatable officiating, you can decide that. Frankly, it’s probably a combination of both. However, they competed with arguably the best team in the league for 48 minutes, and only lost by two without their All-Star point guard Kemba Walker.

Oh, and Jayson Tatum is a superstar.

You can’t be mad at that.