LOS ANGELES,:The injury-riddled Boston Celtics won their 10th straight game by cruising to a 107-96 win Wednesday over the Los Angeles Lakers in a matchup between two of the NBA’s most storied franchises.
Australia’s Aron Baynes scored a career high 21 points during the game which saw the Celtics compile a 21 point first-half lead before the Lakers closed the gap in the third.
But Los Angeles allowed the Celtics to pull away again in the fourth when it mattered most.
The 30-year-old Baynes, who was born in New Zealand but grew up in Cairns, Australia, also grabbed eight rebounds and had three assists in front of a crowd of 18,600 at the Boston Garden.
“We have such great creators on this team,” said Baynes, a member of the Australian national team. “I just found myself in the right position. I was just trying to make the right play, and I’m trying to finish as best I could.
“It’s a compliment to the other guys on the team getting me the ball in great position.”
Boston’s Kyrie Irving overcame a poor shooting night to finish with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists.
But the banged-up Celtics are the hottest team in the NBA for a reason. They are getting contributions from everyone with different players stepping up each game. On Wednesday it was Baynes’ turn along with Marcus Morris, who had 18 points, and Terry Rozier who added 14 points and eight rebounds.
“Until we have only four (players) left, I guess we’re just going to keep playing,” Boston coach Brad Stevens said. “And then I don’t know what you do at four, but keep playing.
“Most importantly, and I don’t want to make light, the most important (thing) is those guys get back healthy.”
Brandon Ingram scored 18 points for the Lakers, who were guilty of 21 turnovers.
Wednesday also marked the first pro meeting between Celtics rookie and third overall pick Jayson Tatum and Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball. But the matchup was shortened after Tatum had to leave the game because of an ankle problem.
The Celtics effectively passed over Ball at the draft by trading down from the number one pick to get Tatum at number three. The Celtics knew Tatum was going to be available in that position because the Lakers planned to take Ball at number two.
Tatum finished with five points and had one rebound and one assist in nine minutes during the first half. He didn’t return for the second half.
The 19-year old Tatum had been given a more prominent role because of an opening night injury to Gordon Hayward. He has responded by averaging 14.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in his first 11 games.
The Celtics, who are already without Hayward for the season, were also missing Al Horford on Wednesday. He is out with a possible concussion.
Point guard Ball was loudly booed during the pre-game introductions and jeered every time he touched the ball. Celtics fans are still upset at his father LaVar Ball who said publicly that the younger Ball wouldn’t play for the Celtics.
Ball’s shooting woes continued on Wednesday as he finished with just nine points on four-of-15 shooting from the field in 39 minutes of playing time.
“It’s just in my head, to be honest,” said Ball. “I know I can shoot the ball.”
Ball is also dealing with the recent arrest of his younger brother LiAngelo Ball in China on suspicion of shoplifting.
Ball doesn’t think the case will be a distraction for him.
“I mean, it’s still my little brother. But I got to come out here and play,” he said.
The Lakers other point guard is Jordan Clarkson who came off the bench to tie for a team high 18 points in just 27 minutes of action.
Elsewhere, Nikola Vucevic scored 24 points and Evan Fournier had 23 to help the Orlando Magic halt a two-game losing streak with a 112-99 win over the New York Knicks, who were without injured star Kristaps Porzingis.
Porzingis sat out with a left ankle sprain and a bruised right elbow. He is averaging 30 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while shooting 51 percent from the field.
In Detroit, Tobias Harris had 23 points and eight rebounds to help the Detroit Pistons win for the sixth time in seven games, downing the Indiana Pacers 114-97. -AFP