Just over two weeks after getting blown out in Boston, courtesy of a 130-108 loss against the Celtics, the Lakers would have been keen to avenge that defeat as they hosted their arch-rivals on Tuesday night.
At the final buzzer of the reverse leg, the Lakers not only avenged their defeat in Boston but also delivered a similarly dominant performance which helped them cruise to a comfortable 117-102 victory.
This game was easily one of the best of the 12 games that the team’s Big 3 of LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis played together so far. The numbers speak for themselves:
The Lakers made their push to seize control in the third quarter when they outscored the visitors 31-20. From there, they never looked back as all of the game’s 11 lead changes and seven ties were recorded in the first half.
“We got a lot of good moments tonight and we want to continue to build off of that,” James said of the win to TNT’s Allie LaForce postgame. “There’s some things we can clean up but tonight was one of the best 48-minute games we’ve had so far.”
The Lakers dominated the paint in this game, outscoring the Celtics 66-42 near the rim and outrebounding them 51-34. More importantly, it was one of the best defensive performances the team put out so far.
“Very proud of the defensive performance tonight,” said Lakers head coach Frank Vogel, who has a reputation of being a defense-first coach.
“We’re hard to stop on the break and it starts with our defense,” Russell Westbrook said postgame.
Coincidentally, it seems like that Celtics game, nearly 17 days ago, was the turning point for the Lakers as their defense and Westbrook’s play have taken steps in the right direction since.
After that loss in Boston, the former 2016-17 league MVP was averaging 18.9 points, 8.6 assists and 8.2 rebounds on shooting splits of 42.6/29.7/66.7 but those numbers look healthier over the past eight games.
With respect to the team’s defense, it’s improved in the league’s rankings although their rating has only improved by a couple of points. That says plenty, that they have been able to maintain a standard of defense while the rest of the teams have regressed.
With this victory, the Lakers are back above .500 at 13-12 and are just a few games off the fourth-seeded Conference’s fourth seed.