LeBron James delivered the go-ahead jumper with 30 seconds left to help lift the Los Angeles Lakers to a 114-112 victory over the Boston Celtics Sunday as the two decorated franchises renewed their historic rivalry.
“I just gave a little dream shake to the baseline and was able to open up the middle and get my fadeaway,” James said.
The NBA powerhouses went down to the wire in a back-and-forth thriller in front of a crowd of almost 19,000 at the Staples Center arena.
Boston and Los Angeles have 33 championships between them and have met in the finals a record 12 times.
Both are once again title contenders, with the Lakers on top of the Western Conference standings and the Celtics in third in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s just special to be part of this rivalry,” James said. “We understand that this has been going on since the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, all the way through.”
LeBron’s fadeaway shot gave the Lakers the lead for good, and Anthony Davis sealed the win with three free throws over the final 12 seconds.
“He got to his money shot, the shot he always makes, a shot he always takes in practice and in games, and he did what he does best and made the shot.”
LeBron James finished with 29 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, while Davis tallied a team-high 32 points and 13 rebounds as the Lakers also showed good defensive strategy late in the game.
“The more that you’re in that environment of a close game, of an intense game like that, I think everybody just gets a chance to grow together,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said.
Jayson Tatum scored a career-high-tying 41 points for Boston, who have survived all season on their superior offensive balance.
All five Boston starters scored in double figures, with Daniel Theis adding 16 points and nine rebounds and Marcus Smart registering 14 points and seven rebounds.
Gordon Hayward scored 10 points but shot zero-of-five from behind the three-point line.
Hayward flirted with a triple-double, handing out a team-high nine assists and grabbing eight rebounds.
Boston was coming off a Friday’s 127-117 win over Minnesota where four Celtics — Jaylen Brown, Tatum, Hayward and Theis — each scored at least 25 points.
– Career high –
Tatum’s 41 points Sunday equalled his career-high set January 11th against New Orleans.
Eighteen of Tatum’s 41 came in the third quarter, which ended with the teams tied 87-87.
The Celtics took a 110-108 lead with 77 seconds left in the fourth when Brown drained a three-pointer. Brown finished with 20 points against the Lakers.
Boston played without all-star guard Kemba Walker.
Elsewhere, Coby White came off the bench to score 33 points as the Chicago Bulls weathered a career-high 53-point performance from Bradley Beal to defeat the Washington Wizards 126-117.
Zach LaVine added 32 points, and Thaddeus Young finished with 25 points for the Bulls, who ended an eight-game losing streak.
Tomas Satoransky posted a double-double against his former team with 15 points and 13 assists.
Beal shot 15 of 27 from the field, five of 11 from three point range and 18 of 20 from the free throw line for the Wizards who have lost two straight.
The Wizards loss also meant the Milwaukee Bucks clinched the earliest playoff spot in 15 years despite not playing.
Milwaukee is 48-8 and on pace to win 70 games — a feat accomplished only by the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls (72 wins) and the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors (73 wins).
In Toronto, Pascal Siakam scored 21 points and the Raptors led all the way to defeat the Indiana Pacers 127-81.