Lakers 114, Celtics 112

Observations from the Celtics’ stumble on the road against the Lakers

Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives to the basket as teammate Daniel Theis engages Lakers center Dwight Howard underneath the basket.
Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) drives to the basket as teammate Daniel Theis engages Lakers center Dwight Howard underneath the basket.Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press/Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum put on a show under the spotlight on Sunday, but could not quite provide the final exclamation point, as the Lakers held on for a 114-112 win.

Tatum poured in 41 points, 40 of which came after the first quarter, but was called for an offensive foul with his team trailing by two points with 0.8 seconds left. That probably wouldn’t have mattered, though, the shot he took was an airball.

Anthony Davis hit a 3-pointer with 2:08 left that gave the Lakers a 108-105 lead. Gordon Hayward answered with a baseline pull-up, and after Davis missed inside the Celtics raced the other way and Hayward found Jaylen Brown open in the right corner for a 3-pointer that made it 110-108 with 1:17 left.


With 37.7 seconds to play Brown fouled James inside. James, who struggled from the foul line all night, and missed the second, but the carom went out of bounds off the Celtics.

With 30.1 seconds left, James drilled a tough fadeaway over Brown. At the other end, Brown’s pass to Tatum went out of bounds. Celtics coach Brad Stevens appeared to be upset that Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope was not called for fouling Tatum on the play, and he received a technical foul.

Anthony Davis missed the technical free throw, but then hit a pair after being fouled with 12.3 seconds left.

After a timeout, the Celtics drew up a play for a 3-pointer, but a foul was called away from the ball on James. Grant Williams hit both free throws. The Celtics had previously lost a timeout when challenging a foul call, so they were unable to advance the ball. Anthony Davis was fouled and made his first free throw but missed the second.

Marcus Smart got the ball to Tatum, but before he shot an airball he was called for an offensive foul with 0.8 seconds left, and the Lakers ran out the clock.


Celtics point guard Kemba Walker missed the game because of knee soreness.

Observations from the game:

■  When these teams met in Boston earlier this season, the Lakers needed just over a minute to explode to a 10-0 lead. But then the Celtics walloped them the rest of the night. Perhaps Brad Stevens thought back to that when he declined to call a timeout after Los Angeles burst to an early 12-3 lead. The Celtics regrouped on their own, and ultimately Lakers coach Frank Vogel stopped the action after his team’s lead was whittled to four.

■  Marcus Smart appeared to suffer a left thigh injury late in the first quarter. He fell to the ground and appeared to be in a good deal of pain. But sometimes it’s tough to tell with Smart. In this case, he bounced back up and took a 3-pointer that missed. He limped around for the final minute but appeared fine when he returned in the second quarter.

■  Daniel Theis held his own in the first half when he was matched up against James. He stayed in front of him on a pair of first-quarter plays and got him to settle for two long jumpers that missed. Then, late in the second quarter, he shuffled his feet on James’s powerful drive, absorbed a forearm to the stomach and drew an offensive foul.


■  There was one odd sequence near the start of the second quarter. Romeo Langford drove to the hoop and put the ball off the backboard for a layup attempt, and then Dwight Howard blocked it. The ball was initially ruled a goaltend, but the referees discussed it after James protested and it was ruled an inadvertent whistle. It did appear that the ball had caromed off the backboard and beyond the rim, so was essentially eligible to be rebounded. The tough part for the Celtics was that Howard’s block initially ended up in the hands of Jaylen Brown, and his layup was wiped away.

■  Romeo Langford got an extended run in the second quarter. The Lakers quickly looked to exploit the rookie on defense. When James noticed Langford on him, he yelled “Get out!” to teammate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, telling him to vacate the area so he would have more room to work. But Langford stuck with James, who missed a tough layup. Soon after, Kyle Kuzma tried to exploit a switch, but Langford battled and batted the ball away.

■  Big quarters from Jayson Tatum have become quite common, but when they come in spotlight games like this one, they stand out. After scoring just one first-quarter point, Tatum erupted for 18 in the second, mixing poetic drives to the hoop with side-step 3-pointers that left the crowd here gasping.

■  Tatum continued to cook in the third quarter, too. The Lakers tried putting Anthony Davis on him, and tried sending traps with JaVale McGee, but neither approach helped all that much. During one 47-second stretch Tatum soared in for a one-handed dunk and then drilled a corner 3-pointer that gave Boston its largest lead to that point, 79-72. It reached the point where he was seeking out that matchup with Davis, who had the length but not the foot speed to keep up with him. Tatum followed up his 18-point second quarter with an 18-point third.


■  With four minutes left, Tatum made a great defensive play to strip Anthony Davis. The play ended with a tie-up that resulted in a jump-ball with just 2.7 seconds left on the shot clock. That ball was tapped twice before Davis gathered it and scored, but players cannot retrieve their own jump balls, so the basket was waved off.

■  Celtics legend Bill Russell sat courtside on Sunday wearing a Kobe Bryant No. 24 Lakers jersey. He is most likely in town to attend Bryant’s memorial service at the Staples Center on Monday morning.

■  The Clippers and Lakers both play in the Staples Center, and this year they are both legitimate NBA title contenders. But the buzz in the building at their respective games could not feel more different. When the Celtics played the Clippers here in November, the place felt like a library for much of the night.

Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at adam.himmelsbach@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.