Banged-up Celtics top Lakers for 10th straight win
BOSTON — The Celtics are dealing with all kinds of injury problems in the early stages of the NBA season.
But Boston keeps winning anyway.
“Until we have only four (players) left, I guess we’re just going to keep playing,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said after his team held off the young Los Angeles Lakers 107-96 for their 10th straight victory Wednesday night. “And then I don’t know what you do at four, but keep playing.
“Most importantly, and I don’t want to make light, the most important (thing) is those guys get back healthy.”
The Celtics (10-2) started the season with newcomer Marcus Morris out with a knee injury, then lost free agent signee Gordon Hayward for the season in the first quarter of his first game. Marcus Smart was down for two games with ankle troubles after that.
On Wednesday night, Boston was missing Al Horford, out as he entered the NBA’s concussion protocol, and then lost rookie Jayson Tatum at halftime to what was called a sore right ankle, according to Stevens, that will be examined further Thursday.
“Being resilient,” Celtics guard Kyrie Irving said after teammate Aron Baynes matched his career high with 21 points and added eight rebounds and three assists in the victory. “As you can see, we got our big fella, our OG (original gangster) down, Al Horford ... we had to tough this one out.”
Morris, starting with Horford out, scored a season-high 18 points in 25 minutes of playing time. Irving overcame a poor shooting night to finish with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists, and Terry Rozier came off the bench to contribute 14 points and eight rebounds.
Irving said, “I shot like crap from the field (7-for-21, 0-for-7 from 3-point range) but when you got great teammates like we have in the locker room here that are just resilient throughout the entire game, man, it makes my job a lot easier to just go out there and be myself.”
Stevens said the lack of healthy bodies and a busy schedule has kept the team from practicing properly. The off-day gatherings largely have consisted of walkthroughs and video study.
The Celtics built a 21-point halftime lead, but the Lakers didn’t quit, getting as close as two down midway through the third quarter.
But the Celtics were able to grow the lead back to double digits in the fourth, when the Lakers were guilty of 10 of their 21 turnovers.
Baynes was a key — in the key.
“Aron was great,” Stevens said. “He did a great job of rolling all night and sealing and finishing in and around the paint. Had a couple of put-backs and did a good job.”
Said Baynes, who is averaging 7.1 points and 5.8 rebounds per game: “We have such great creators on this team. I just found myself in the right position. I was just trying to make the right play, and I’m trying to finish as best I could. It’s a compliment to the other guys on the team getting me the ball in great position.”
Brandon Ingram and Jordan Clarkson had 18 points apiece to lead the Lakers, and Julius Randle contributed 16 points and 12 rebounds.
“They were ready for the fight and we weren’t,” Los Angeles coach Luke Walton said. “We felt like in the first quarter, they punked us. They were bigger than us, they were stronger than us. ... I feel we engaged nicely in the fight from there on, we just didn’t do smart things.”
Los Angeles rookie Lonzo Ball, booed lustily during introductions and every time he touched the ball (his father said he didn’t want him to play in Boston and the son wouldn’t work out for the Celtics), had nine points, six assists, five rebounds and four blocked shots. He shot 4 of 15 from the floor and is 10 of 43 in the past three games, 2 of 16 from 3-point range. However, he committed only two turnovers in 39 minutes.
“You’ve got to get used to it,” Ball said of the booing. “It’s the home court. I come in expecting to get booed.
“(The game) was fun. We came out a little lax and they jumped on us quick.”
Tatum’s exit shortened the first pro matchup of Tatum, the No. 3 pick in the draft after the Celtics traded down from No. 1, and Ball, the No. 2 selection.
The Celtics, who have beaten the Lakers four straight times, have held nine of the 10 winning-streak opponents to fewer than 100 points.
NOTES: Boston C Al Horford, who took a shot to the head from Atlanta’s Kent Bazemore on Monday night, finished that game but started experiencing concussion symptoms Wednesday morning. ... With Lonzo Ball’s brother LiAngelo one of three UCLA players arrested in China for alleged shoplifting, Lonzo Ball said pregame, “I’m just trying to focus on the game.” Afterward, he said his brother was on his mind. ... Former Celtics star Paul Pierce, whose No. 34 will be retired Feb. 11, was in the building with ESPN and received a video tribute and loud ovation. ... C Andrew Bogut was active for the first time as a Laker. He played six scoreless minutes. ... New Red Sox manager Alex Cora was introduced to the crowd.