A court full of elite athletes from two of the NBA’s premier franchises, and it was all decided by a pinkie. As well as a beautiful fadeaway by LeBron James.
The Los Angeles Lakers pulled out a 114-112 win over a Boston Celtics team missing Kemba Walker on Sunday, prevailing in a game in which neither team was ever up by double digits. The win avenged one of the Lakers’ worst losses of the season, a 139-107 drubbing in Boston on Jan. 20.
Lakers triumph in wild final minute vs. Celtics
As usual, 61 combined points from James and Anthony Davis led the way for the Lakers, but the game’s final minute hinged on a scramble for a free throw. With less than a minute remaining and down 110-109, James missed the second of two free throws. The ball fell to Boston’s Jaylen Brown, but Davis aggressively reached for the ball, which was eventually knocked out of bounds.
The out-of-bounds was called on the Celtics, but a replay showed the ball seeming to last touch Davis’ pinkie. Or not. The officials eventually decided to let the call stand.
On the next play, James squared off against Brown, tried to push the Celtics star into the post, then hit a beautiful fadeaway to give his team the 111-110 lead.
In the middle of it all, the Lakers superstar smirked as he figured out what to do.
LeBron smirked, then hit the CLUTCH fadeaway 💪 pic.twitter.com/f8s8XQeY94
— ESPN (@espn) February 23, 2020
“Jaylen Brown had been playing me toward the baseline because I had been drop-stepping all game,” James said after the game. “I knew if I just gave him a little shimmy shake to the baseline, I could come back middle and get my shot off. Through the grace of God and a lot of hard work, I was able to knock it down.”
The Lakers would never relinquish that lead, with the game ending on an attempted game-winner from Jayson Tatum was called off by an offensive foul.
Had Tatum received those points, it would have capped a masterful day for the 21-year-old as he filled in for Walker’s absence on offense. Tatum finished with 41 points on 12-of-20 shooting, the first player to top 40 points in a Lakers-Celtics game since Kobe Bryant in 2011.
Jayson Tatum had a shot to tie it, but was called for an offensive foul. pic.twitter.com/45KkaU44sS
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 23, 2020
Despite the loss, the Celtics should definitely feel heartened they took the Lakers to the final minute on the road and without their All-Star point guard. The team looked like a legitimate Finals contender (though the Milwaukee Bucks remain an enormous obstacle), and should be at full strength soon once Walker has recovered from a minor knee procedure.
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