Celtics-Lakers takeaways: Sloppy start, Reaves' hot shooting doom C's originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Three Key Storylines
The Boston Celtics played one of their ugliest games of the 2023-24 NBA season Thursday night at TD Garden.
Hosting their archrival Los Angeles Lakers, the C's were heavy favorites with L.A. missing its superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. But just minutes into the game, it became clear that it simply wasn't Boston's night.
The Celtics turned the ball over a whopping nine times and were dominated on the glass (10-3 offensive rebounds) in the first quarter. They cleaned things up a bit in the second half but still couldn't keep up with a Lakers team that was red-hot from 3-point range (52.8 percent), resulting in a 114-105 defeat.
Jayson Tatum (23 points, 5-10 3-PT) and Sam Hauser (17 points (5-9 3-PT) were the bright spots for Boston. Los Angeles had six players in double figures and was led by Austin Reaves, who dropped a game-high 32 points.
Next, the Celtics (37-12) will welcome old friend Marcus Smart back to TD Garden when they host the Memphis Grizzlies (18-29) on Sunday night. (Smart is out due to injury but expected to make the trip to Boston.) Before we turn the page to that reunion, here are three takeaways from Thursday's game.
Sloppy start dooms Celtics
The Celtics also couldn't stop the Lakers on the glass. L.A. set the tone for the rest of the night with a 10-3 advantage in offensive boards in the first quarter. Despite those unflattering numbers, the C's somehow entered the second quarter trailing by only three points.
Boston failed to take advantage as it was outscored 32-21 in the second. The team entered halftime down 14 points, a hole that it couldn't dig itself out of in the second half despite winning both the third and fourth quarters.
On top of it all, the Celtics shot just 7-for-23 (30.4 percent) on 3-pointers in the first half while the Lakers couldn't miss from beyond the arc. L.A. carried its momentum into the second half to finish off a tough short-handed victory.
Rough night for C's starters
This was a game to forget for the Celtics' starting five. Tatum may be an exception as he dropped a team-high 23 points on 5-of-10 shooting from deep, though he was just 8-of-21 from the floor.
The other four starters were a combined 19-for-47 (40.4 percent) from the field and 2-for-17 (11.7 percent) from 3. Porzingis (17 points) shot 7-of-15 but missed six of his seven 3-pointers and was a game-worst -22. Derrick White (nine points) was 4-of-11 and Brown was 4-of-12. All five C's starters had at least two turnovers.
Celtics starters were a season-worst minus-14 vs Lakers. Previous worst: minus-9.
First quarter was filled with bad turnovers. Spent the night running in mud against a shorthanded team. Never found a way to change the energy.
Old bad habits lead to ugly loss.
— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) February 2, 2024
Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla sent a clear message to his starters throughout the night, putting the second unit in just three minutes into the third quarter and pulling his starters with two minutes remaining in the game.
The bench held its end of the bargain. Hauser had the second-most points on the team with 17 on 6-of-11 shooting (5-9 3-PT). Payton Pritchard and Al Horford (nine rebounds) added a pair of 3s apiece. Two-way big man Neemias Queta provided a spark with seven points and seven boards (four offensive). All of his points and five of his rebounds came in the first half.
Austin Reaves, Lakers catch fire from 3
The Celtics had no answer for Lakers guard Austin Reaves, who started hot with 11 first-quarter points and didn't cool down for the rest of the night.
Coming off a season-high 28 points vs. the Atlanta Hawks, Reaves picked up where he left off with a 19-point first half on 5-of-7 shooting from 3. That's his career-high for points in any half.
AUSTIN REAVES IS ON FIRE.
His 6th 3-pointer of the night, a new career high, just minutes into the 3Q 😲
Lakers-Celtics on TNT pic.twitter.com/N5ACgFRPoj
— NBA (@NBA) February 2, 2024
Reaves ended up converting seven of his 10 3-point attempts to finish with 32 points, just three points short of his career-high. His seven made 3s marked the most in his career and it was his third 30-point performance.
He wasn't the only Laker to catch fire from deep. D'Angelo Russell was 4-of-8 from 3 and ended up with 16 points to go with a season-high 14 assists, the most assists for a player against Boston this season. Rui Hachimura (15 points) added three 3-pointers of his own, and Jarred Vanderbilt (10 points) was 2-of-3 from long range before exiting with a foot injury in the first half.
The Lakers entered Thursday averaging just 11.2 made 3-pointers per game. They were 13-of-25 from 3 in the first half, the second-most 3s allowed in a half by the Celtics this season.