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Celtics feast on Lakers home court in classic NBA Christmas clash

By AFP - Dec 27,2023 - Last updated at Dec 27,2023

Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket against Rui Hachimura #28 and Anthony Davis #3 of the Los Angeles Lakers in the second half at Crypto.com Arena on Tuesday in Los Angeles, California (AFP photo)

LOS ANGELES — The Boston Celtics used a hot start and a strong finish to put away the Los Angeles Lakers 126-115 on Tuesday in a Christmas clash of storied NBA franchises.

Kristaps Porzingis scored 28 points and pulled down 11 rebounds and Jayson Tatum added 25 points for the Celtics, who withstood a 40-point effort from Lakers star Anthony Davis.

The game between the teams that share the record for most NBA titles with 17 apiece was one of five on the Christmas Day slate that started with the New York Knicks’ 129-122 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks at Madison Square Garden.

The reigning champion Denver Nuggets beat Golden State 120-114 in a clash of the last two title winners that left Warriors coach Steve Kerr fuming at the officiating.

Lakers star LeBron James, coming off a 40-point performance in a win over the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Saturday, scored just 16 points on five-of-14 shooting.

James added nine rebounds and eight assists, but a slightly “lethargic” start — which Lakers coach Darvin Ham said could have been due to holiday distractions or an unusually early afternoon start — proved too much to overcome.

The Celtics roared out of the gate to a 12-0 lead and led by as many as 18 before the Lakers began to chip away.

Davis scored 20 first-half points, driving for a basket that cut the deficit to 58-57 in the waning seconds of the first half.

Both teams got a scare late in the second period, when James and Jaylen Brown collided and both went down, James holding his left knee and Brown his back.

James would go briefly to the bench before returning while Brown went to the locker room and was diagnosed with a lower back contusion. He eventually returned to finish with 19 points.

Tatum said the thing he liked best about the victory was how Boston responded after the Lakers closed the gap then took a two-point lead early in the third on Jarred Vanderbilt’s dunk.

Boston answered with seven straight points and the Lakers wouldn’t get in front again as the Celtics improved to a league-best 23-6.

“And it’s a big win, right? It’s Christmas day and it’s tough to win on the road,” Tatum said. “So just the way we responded and executed late in the game.”

 

Kerr blasts officiating 

 

In Denver, Jamal Murray scored 28 points and two-time NBA Most Valuable Player Nikola Jokic overcame a poor shooting day by going 18-for-18 at the free-throw as the Nuggets took their winning streak to five games.

Despite connecting on just four of 12 shots from the field Jokic finished with 26 points, adding 14 rebounds and eight assists to help the Nuggets come out on top in a seesaw battle.

The Warriors came into the contest riding a five-game winning streak. But superstar Stephen Curry endured a frustrating afternoon, scoring just four points in the first half on the way to a total of 18 on seven-of-21 shooting.

He was three-for-13 from three-point range and handed out four assists.

Canada’s Andrew Wiggins helped keep the Warriors in it, scoring a team-high 22 points off the bench.

But after Jokic took 14 second-half free-throws Kerr blasted the NBA for “legislating defence out of the game”.

“If I were a fan, I wouldn’t have wanted to watch the second half of that game, it was disgusting,” Kerr said.

“It was just baiting refs into calls, but the refs have to make those calls because that’s how they’re taught,” added Kerr, who decried what he called “A parade to the free-throw line.”

In New York, Jalen Brunson scored 38 points for the Knicks as they finally got the better of Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks, halting Milwaukee’s seven-game win streak with a 129-122 victory at the Garden.

The Knicks had lost their previous nine games against Milwaukee, including a 130-111 decision on Saturday.

Julius Randle scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds, RJ Barrett bounced back from a disappointing showing on Saturday to score 21 points, and Immanuel Quickley added 20 off the bench for the Knicks.

Damian Lillard and Antetokounmpo meanwhile each scored 32 points apiece for Milwaukee.

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