The fake crowd boos were dialed up when LeBron James was introduced, or missed a free throw, or got blocked by Daniel Theis.
James had said earlier in the week that he missed the real Garden crowd and its motivational nastiness, but before long it didn’t matter. As evidenced by Marcus Smart taking off his warmup top and firing it at the bench following introductions, all of the necessary motivational fuel on both sides was self-contained.
But the Celtics, after losing Smart down the stretch to a strained left calf, fell short by a pair of late misses in a 96-95 loss to the Lakers.
Despite 30 points from Jayson Tatum and 28 from Jaylen Brown, they didn’t quite have enough to counter the Lakers’ big two – Anthony Davis (27 points, 12 rebounds) and James (21 points, seven assists, seven rebounds).
Tatum’s slashing drive for a floater cut the Lakers lead to 96-95 with 32.4 seconds left. Davis, under pressure in the post from Semi Ojeleye, lost the ball when Kemba Walker poked it away, but the Celtics point guard missed down the other end, with Theis’ attempt at a put-back also falling short as the buzzer sounded.
LeBron James’ 3-pointer with 5:25 left on the tail end of a three-shot possession broke a tie and gave the Lakers an 88-85 lead.
James buried another three, this time over Theis from the left side, for a six-point lead, but Brown drove and scored over Davis. Tatum threw the ball away and Montrezl Harrell scored off the break. Walker missed, Dennis Schroder did the same from the top of the circle, and Tatum scored off a Brown dish, cutting the Lakers lead to 93-89.
Davis missed a leaner, and much to James’ consternation, he was called for a foul on Brown down the other end. But the Celtics wing missed both free throws, leaving the Celtics in a four-point hole.
Brown compounded his trouble by fouling Schroder, on the way to converting a three-point play with 1:40 left for a 96-89 Lakers lead.
Walker had better success with 1:34 left, cutting the margin to 96-91 from the line.
Tatum wheeled into the lane following a Davis miss and cut the Lakers lead to 96-93. James missed, the rebound went to Davis, and James, under pressure from Ojeleye, lost the ball out of bounds.
Ojeleye stayed in the game thanks to his work on James, and with 32.4 seconds left Tatum slashed into the lane to cut the Lakers lead to 96-95. But that’s how it ended.