Jayson Tatum had 37 points and 11 rebounds as the host Boston Celtics spoiled the much-anticipated return of LeBron James in a 130-108 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night.
James finished with 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting and six rebounds in 32 minutes after missing the Lakers’ last eight games with an abdominal strain.
Marcus Smart totaled 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists for Boston. Celtics guard Dennis Schroder scored 21 against his former team.
Al Horford added 18 points and Josh Richardson chipped in 15 for the Celtics, who earned their sixth win in nine games. All-Star forward Jaylen Brown missed his seventh straight game with a Grade 1 right hamstring strain. Celtics center Robert Williams III also sat out with left knee tendinopathy.
Anthony Davis scored 31 points, Carmelo Anthony added 13 and Russell Westbrook totaled just 12 points, six assists and four boards for Los Angeles, which went 3-5 without James.
Los Angeles led 61-60 at halftime but allowed a 10-2 run by Boston to open the third quarter. Richardson’s jumper put the Celtics up 85-75 with 4:42 on the clock and Boston led 93-82 heading into the fourth.
Westbrook’s layup at 10:24 of the fourth brought the Lakers within 99-91 before the Celtics separated with an 11-3 run. “Beat L.A.” chants rained down from the balcony as Horford hit a free throw to put Boston up by 20 late in the fourth.
With Celtics legends and Basketball Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Paul Pierce seated courtside, James riled up the Boston crowd with a thunderous one-handed dunk for his first points at 9:29 of the opening quarter.
Davis’ alley-oop dunk put the Lakers up 32-18 with 2:46 to go in the first. But Smart and Richardson combined for all of the Celtics’ points during a quarter-ending 12-6 run to pull within 38-30.
–Field Level Media