Celtics vs. Lakers Was Fun

A surreal day in SoCal.

Jim Rome
February 24, 2020 - 11:27 am
LeBron James

USA Today

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You know it’s a surreal day in SoCal when the Lakers beat the Celtics by two in a huge regular season game and it’s almost an afterthought because of the celebration of the lives of Kobe and Gianna today. That was on everyone’s minds yesterday, like when Bill Russell showed up at Staples yesterday in a Kobe jersey. That was awesome, and sad, and everything in between.

Celtics-Lakers yesterday was tremendous. They aren’t the two best teams in the league right now, I know that. The Bucks are nine games ahead of Boston in the East and the Raptors would like a word as well. It’s late February, we have a long way to go until June. 

But that didn’t just feel like Lakers-Celtics yesterday that felt like a Lakers-Celtics Finals game. Rivalries are pretty much dead in pro sports, but that felt like a rivalry game. And it felt like one taking place in the playoffs, not in the regular season just after the All-Star break.

Again, the Bucks are lapping the field in the East. They are that good. They are so good that it’s easy to forget about them. But I wouldn’t blame anyone who saw that game yesterday and wanted seven more of it. 

If you saw that and said you didn’t want to see that again, you’re a liar. Doesn’t make you a felon; but it makes you a liar. I know I’d like it. Sign me up. Two teams trading shots until the very last minute. 

Regular season games like that rarely live up to the hype. But that one did.

As LeBron said: "Just on the simple fact it's two teams that have aspirations of holding that trophy up at the end of the season. So we knew what we were getting ourselves into, they knew what they were getting themselves into and it was a great game for both of us."

And the fact that both teams are in this position at this point in the season is pretty amazing, when you consider where they were last year. The Celtics were falling apart, the Kyrie Irving experiment was failing, the young players appeared to be stagnating, and the season that had so much promise was a total mess.

But as bad as they were, they were still in a much better spot than the Lakers. Because LA was going through its sixth straight season without the playoffs. LeBron was injured. They had a roster that didn’t work. They didn’t pull off the Anthony Davis trade. 

How bad was it? There was actually a legitimate question as to who was worse, Knicks or the Lakers? Not some made for TV hot debate: a legitimate question: And it wasn’t an easy answer. 

And we were still a few weeks away from Magic Johnson quitting to spend more time on Twitter.

And now the Lakers are back. LeBron is healthy and playing at an MVP level. They have Anthony Davis. They have a roster that works. They have a coaching staff that is making all the right moves. 

And they have really nice win over the Celtics. 

Because that Boston team came to play, even without Kemba Walker. If you had any doubts about Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown last season, consider those erased now.

Yes, Tatum has that massive back tat with the slight grammatical error. Laugh at him all you want for that, he just dropped 41 on the Lakers on national television.

He was doing this.

And this.

And this.

As LeBron posted on Instagram after the game, Tatum is “an absolute problem.”  And LeBron is right.  Tatum IS an absolute problem.

Jaylen Brown put it another way: "Tatum has reached a new height -- superstar level. We've all got to continue to improve and go with him. The way he's playing is unreal. We've got to continue to find ways to allow him to reach his potential." 

And it’s not like Brown is some hack, either. He had 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. 

But as good as they were, they still weren’t good enough, not when Anthony Davis is going for 32 and 13, even in a less than great performance. Not when Dwight Howard is giving you 10 and 7 in 15 minutes off the bench. 

And not when LeBron is going for 29 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds, and the game-winner. A little dream shake. And it’s one that LeBron had been planning on using on Jaylen Brown all game.

"I had been setting him up all night with the back down, to the drop step, to the baseline, so I figured he would sit on it thinking I would try it again. So, went to my back down, gave a little 'Dream Shake' to the baseline and was able to open up middle and get my fadeaway."

Perfectly planned. Perfectly executed. And yes, the Lakers-Celtics rivalry is back and while Milwaukee has something to say about it, I’d happily take seven more games like the one I just saw, come June.