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Lakers player grades: L.A. absolutely shocks the Celtics

Coming into Thursday, the Los Angeles Lakers were reeling. They were coming off back-to-back blowout losses to the Houston Rockets and Atlanta Hawks, and their defense had suffered a complete collapse over their last several games.

To make matters worse, they faced the Boston Celtics, the NBA’s best team, on Thursday. On top of that, LeBron James and Anthony Davis were ruled out prior to the opening tip.

Surely, the Lakers were headed for a blowout loss on the road against a Celtics team that came in with a league-best 22-2 record at home. Surely, the Lakers had as much a chance of beating Boston as a nor’easter had of striking Southern California.

Instead, they pulled off the upset of the season.

Los Angeles came out and stunned the Celtics and their fans by taking a 28-17 lead in the first quarter. Boston fought back to take a brief 32-31 lead, but that would do it as far as the highlights for the home team.

The Lakers muscled their way to a 60-46 halftime lead, and they successfully fended off Boston’s attempts to make things competitive en route to a 114-105 victory.

They got the job done by playing with the type of energy, aggression, urgency and fire they have shown only on occasion this season. All too often this year, they have gotten outhustled and outworked by their opponents. But on this night, they did the outhustling themselves.

Los Angeles pounded the boards, especially its offensive boards, and it was the aggressor throughout. It had a 21-17 edge in fast-break points thanks to its defense, which held Boston to 42.3% shooting overall and 33.3% from 3-point range while forcing 15 turnovers. Boston came into this contest ranked second in offensive rating.

The Purple and Gold also shot 19 more free throws, and while they made just 40.4% of their shot attempts, they were a sizzling 52.8% from downtown.

Jaxson Hayes: A

Hayes pounded the boards early, getting six rebounds in the first quarter alone, and got three baskets in the opening minutes of the game. All night long, he aggressively went after rebounds and played defense, and he was rewarded on the offensive end.

He finished the game with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, 10 rebounds, three steals and two assists in 34 minutes.

No matter how much Hayes plays once Davis returns, this is the way he needs to play on a consistent basis. All too often this season, he has seemed practically invisible while on the court. But the immense hustle he displayed on Thursday is a sign that he’s capable of giving L.A. what it needs from the center position.

Taurean Prince: B-plus

Prince struggled somewhat in his previous three games, but on Thursday, he shot 5-of-10 from the field and made one of his two 3-point attempts. He did a good job of attacking closeouts, and he attacked the rim to expose Boston’s lack of rim protection.

The wing finished with 11 points, as well as eight rebounds, two assists, one steal and one blocked shot.

Jarred Vanderbilt: A

Vanderbilt was seemingly everywhere in the first half. He was active from the opening tip, especially on the glass, as he had seven rebounds, three of them on the offensive boards, in the first half.

Defensively, he was disruptive, helping to force turnovers and make Boston uncomfortable. He had a hand in Jayson Tatum shooting just 8-of-21 from the field and Jaylen Brown scoring just eight points on 4-of-12 shooting.

After a rough offensive start, the forward scored three baskets to give him 10 first-half points, and he even nailed a pair of 3-pointers.

Unfortunately, Vanderbilt suffered an injury late in the second quarter and had to come out of the game immediately. He would not return due to what was termed right foot soreness. X-rays on that right foot were reportedly negative.

D'Angelo Russell: B-plus

Russell shot just 5-of-20 from the field, but one has to look beyond that to see his impact. He was hot from long range, going 4-of-8 from 3-point land, and he dished off 14 assists to spark the Lakers’ offensive attack.

He added two steals, and he even committed only one turnover. As a team, L.A. did an excellent job of ball security by totaling just seven turnovers.

The guard even grabbed eight rebounds, which is an area in which he rarely contributes anything meaningful.

This game was a reminder that even when Russell is shooting poorly, he can still help his team win.

Austin Reaves: A

Reaves’ offensive output and efficiency have been inconsistent this season. But he followed up his 28-point effort on Tuesday with 32 points on 10-of-18 shooting and 5-of-7 from the free throw line versus the Celtics while adding three assists and committing no turnovers.

The undrafted guard was seemingly hot all night long, and he made seven of his 10 3-point attempts. He has often struggled with his outside shot this season, but he was feeling it versus Boston, so much so that he had the chutzpah to put up shots from well behind the 3-point line — and make them.

Perhaps putting up season-highs in points in back-to-back games will get Reaves going for the rest of the schedule.

Rui Hachimura: B/B-plus

Hachimura shot 5-of-14 from the field, but like many of his teammates, he was consistently aggressive, which led to him going 3-of-6 from downtown, grabbing eight rebounds and scoring 15 points in 33 minutes. He even managed to notch four of the Lakers’ 30 assists.

This was the sixth straight game in which Hachimura has scored in double figures, and it is one of his best stretches as a Laker. In fact, including Thursday, he is 11-of-17 from 3-point range in his last six games.

Christian Wood: D

Wood was the only Laker who was on the court for a meaningful number of minutes but played poorly. He shot just 1-of-9 from the field and scored only four points in 19 minutes, although he did grab four rebounds and add one assist and one steal.

Max Christie: B

Christie gave the Lakers 23 solid minutes, scoring nine points while contributing four rebounds, two assists and one steal.

Maxwell Lewis, Skylar Mays, Dylan Windler, Jalen Hood-Schifino: Incomplete

All four players went scoreless in one minute of playing time at the end of the contest.

Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire