Tatum scores 37, Celtics beat Lakers in James’ return

Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum (0) goes up to shoot against Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

BOSTON — Jayson Tatum grew up idolizing Kobe Bryant, so he knew all about the Celtics-Lakers rivalry even before becoming part of it.

On Friday night, he put on an offensive show in front of Celtics Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Paul Pierce in the latest chapter.


“It’s a surreal moment, obviously, Bill Russell and the impact he had on the Celtics and the NBA,” Tatum said. “Having someone like Paul come to the game and someone I have a relationship with.

“I remember watching him play,” Tatum said, breaking into a smile. “Now he’s watching me play, that’s crazy.”

Tatum scored 37 points and the Celtics won 130-108 in LeBron James’ return to the Lakers’ lineup.

Marcus Smart had 22 points and Dennis Schroder 21 for Boston (8-8), which climbed back to .500. Tatum had 11 rebounds and Al Horford added 18 points.

Anthony Davis led Los Angeles with 31 points and James finished with 23 in 32 minutes. They each had six rebounds and two assists.

“I felt OK,” James said. “Obviously being out 2 1/2 weeks, I felt kind of like a rookie again, just being away from the game. Excited. Felt good enough that I could trust my body.”

James had missed eight games with an abdominal strain, and the Lakers went 3-5 while he was sidelined. They’ve lost their last four road games.

“It’s never 65 games left (in the season),” James said. “We need to play better.”

Davis agreed, noting the Lakers are deep enough to win even without James.

“We still have enough with our without to win basketball games,” he said.

Tatum started 1 for 5 from the floor before getting his offense flowing, driving hard for a handful of baskets.

“We stress making quick decisions,” Boston coach Ime Udoka said. “When he holds it, the crowds get to him. He was extremely aggressive.”

The teams who have accounted for nearly half of the NBA’s championships with 17 apiece renewed their rivalry in front of a raucous TD Garden crowd that made it seem like a playoff atmosphere from the opening tip.

Russell — introduced as a “true Celtics legend” when he was welcomed back by the PA announcer and shown on the Jumbotron midway into the opening quarter — was seated courtside wearing a hat with the initials “KB” encircled in a yellow heart on the front for Kobe Bryant.

Pierce, who went into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this year, was also courtside.

The Celtics led by 11 points entering the final quarter and opened a 109-94 lead on Tatum’s three-point play with 6:59 remaining. His 3-pointer from the left corner increased it to 116-99 with 5:02 to go.

The Lakers made nine of their initial 12 shots en route to a 38-30 lead after one quarter.

James’ first basket came on a thundering dunk off a drive down the lane 2 ½ minutes into the game.

Boston erased a 14-point deficit in the second quarter and took the lead before James’ fast-break layup gave the Lakers a 61-60 halftime edge.

The Celtics were without two starters but rallied.

“It shows we’re not perfect, but the fight is in us,” Smart said.

The Celtics opened the second half with a 14-4 surge and led 93-82 entering the fourth.


Lakers: Davis had been listed as probable with a right thigh injury. … Asked before the game what the Lakers missed without James, coach Frank Vogel said: “Just quarterbacking it, and leading and running the team.” … It was their second of a five-game road trip.

Celtics: Udoka said F Jaylen Brown is “close” to returning and “really wanted to play” on Friday. The team’s leading scorer at 26.5 points per game missed his seventh straight with a right hamstring injury. … C Robert Williams III missed his second straight with a left knee injury. … Patriots owner Robert Kraft and a few Pats players were also seated courtside.


Udoka said that his boss, Brad Stevens, the former Celtics coach before becoming the team’s president after last season, explained what the first-year coach was about to experience running his first game against the Lakers.

“He said: ‘Buckle up,”’ Udoka said. “The city is clamoring for this matchup all the time.”


Vogel, in his third season with LA, has already been involved in the rivalry. He didn’t hesitate when talking about the matchup before the game.

“It’s the best in all of sports in my opinion,” he said.

Vogel was also an assistant with the Celtics from 2001-04.


Lakers: At Detroit on Sunday.

Celtics: Host Oklahoma City on Saturday night.


PHOENIX — Mikal Bridges and Devin Booker each scored 19 points, Chris Paul added 18 points and 14 assists and Phoenix beat Dallas for its 11th straight victory.

The winning streak is the Suns’ longest since the 2006-07 season — and the latest victory followed a familiar pattern. Phoenix was just so-so for the first three quarters before playing its best basketball in the final 12 minutes.

Phoenix struggled at times with turnovers but made up for it with 14-for-29 shooting from 3-point range. Bridges was 7 of 7 from the field, going 3 of 3 on 3s.

Dallas has lost eight straight to the Suns. Kristaps Porzingis led the Mavs with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Jalen Brunson and Tim Hardaway Jr. each had 18.

The teams played each other for the second time in three nights. The Suns won 105-98 on Wednesday night.


DETROIT — Jordan Poole stepped up in Stephen Curry’s absence to score 22 of his season-high 32 points in the first half, Andrew Wiggins had 27 and Golden State beat Detroit.

Golden State started the fourth quarter with a 16-point lead and held on to win after Detroit’s Jerami Grant and Frank Jackson missed 3-pointers in the closing seconds.

The NBA-leading Warriors sat out Curry with a bruised hip, a night after he had 20 of his 40 points in a fourth-quarter comeback victory at Cleveland. They also were without Draymond Green because of a bruised thigh.

Detroit’s Cade Cunningham, the No. 1 overall pick, had 19 points, six rebounds and six assists. Jackson scored a season-high 27 points.


MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 21 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists and Milwaukee withstood Oklahoma City’s comeback attempt.

Milwaukee never trailed but nearly allowed Oklahoma City to come all the way back from a 20-point deficit.

Bobby Portis had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Bucks. Khris Middleton added 16 points. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led Oklahoma City with 17 points.

NETS 115, MAGIC 113

NEW YORK — James Harden had 36 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists and Brooklyn overcame a 19-point deficit and the absence of Kevin Durant to beat Orlando.

Durant did not play due to a right shoulder sprain.

Harden was 19 for 20 from the free throw line. Patty Mills added 22 points and LaMarcus Aldridge had 11 of his 15 in the fourth quarter.

Jalen Suggs scored 21 points for the Magic.


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — LaMelo Ball had a season-high 32 points along with 11 rebounds and eight assists and Charlotte held off Indiana for its fifth straight victory.

Gordon Hayward added 25 points, and Kelly Oubre Jr. had 16 to finish off a 4-0 homestand that included wins over Golden State and Washington.

Jeremy Lamb had 23 points for Indiana, and Malcolm Brogdon added 16 points. The Pacers lost all three of their games on a trip to fall to 2-9 overall.


NEW ORLEANS — Jonas Valanciunas had 26 points and 13 rebounds and New Orleans overcame a 20-point first-half deficit to beat Los Angeles.

After challenging the Pelicans to “grow up” after they’d blown double-digit leads at Washington and Miami earlier this week, Josh Hart had 19 points, 10 rebounds and two steals. Brandon Ingram had 17 points and 12 rebounds, and Kira Lewis Jr. added 16 points to help New Orleans win for just the third time in 17 games this season.

Los Angeles star Paul George scored 19 points but missed five of six shots in the fourth quarter as the Pelicans pulled away. The Clippers have lost three of four.


DENVER — Zach LaVine scored 12 of his 36 points in a pivotal stretch of the fourth quarter, DeMar DeRozan hit eight straight late free throws and Chicago won in Denver for the first time since 2006, beating a Nuggets team without reigning MVP Nikola Jokic.

Jokic sat courtside in a tan suit with a dark turtleneck, his sprained right wrist in a brace. He appeared to hurt the wrist on Thursday night in a lopsided loss to Philadelphia.

DeRozan finished 26 points, including a 12-for-12 performance at the line.

Aaron Gordon had a season-high 28 points for the Nuggets. They’ve dropped three straight.


SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Pascal Siakam scored 18 of his season-high 32 points in the first half and Toronto beat Sacramento.

Gary Trent Jr. had 23 points to help the Raptors end a three-game skid and win for the second time in eight games. De’Aaron Fox scored 17 points for Sacramento.

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