Point guard Kyrie Irving is the NBA’s preeminent finisher and one of its best ball handlers.
Both were evident last Saturday night at Staples Center where Boston shoved aside the Lakers 120-107.
Irving scored a co-game-high 30 points, collected seven rebounds and dished out a tri-team-best five assists for the Celtics, who are 3-0 on this Western trip having also knocked off the defending champion Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings.
“We have everything to gain,’’ said Irving, who played one season at Duke and was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the top pick in 2011. “We’ve dealt with expectations and outside pressures influencing our locker room. No more time for that.’’
Boston (41-26) led after the first quarter, the half and through three quarters, before getting outscored by the Lakers 31-27 in the fourth quarter.
Irving poured in 11 points at the break and had four assists as the Celtics led 57-47.
Boston carved out a 25-24 lead heading into the second quarter as center Al Horford (10 points with eight caroms and four assists) tallied eight points.
Small forward LeBron James dropped in eight points for Lakers (30-36), who are likely going to miss the playoffs.
Boston’s advantage was sliced to 36-35 when shooting guard Josh Hart (eight points) hit a three-pointer with 8:22 left in the second quarter.
When power forward Aron Baynes (seven points) scored with 5:17 left before the half, the Celtics (51.6 percent on 48 of 93) slipped ahead 42-39.
Boston’s lead became 45-39 on Irving’s 22-foot jumper with 4:15 remaining.
Rookie power forward Johnathan Williams (career-high 18 points with a co-game-best 10 rebounds) led the Lakers (44 of 91 for 48.3 percent) with 10 points and five caroms at the half, while James (co-game-best 30 points with a game-high 12 assists and 10 boards) scored nine points with five assists.
When shooting guard Marcus Smart (16 points and five assists) canned a trey for the Celtics, the lead swelled to 68-51 and 9:47 left in the third frame.
A slam dunk by Williams trimmed the lead to 77-71 with 3:36 on the clock, but the Celtics forged ahead 93-76 through three quarters as Irving scored 11 points.
A layup from James, who teamed up with Irving for an NBA title in 2016, with 7:32 left in the fourth quarter saw Boston’s lead cut to 101-89.
The Celtics went on a 12-7 spurt that included Irving’s layup and 3:46 left for a 113-96 lead.
Lakers rookie power forward Moritz Wagner made his first start and had a career-high 22 points.
Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.