Thursday was an eventful and stressful day around the Los Angeles Lakers. After two weeks of rumors, the trade deadline came to a pass with most of the roster intact and only Svi Mykhailiuk, Ivica Zubac and Michael Beasley as casualties.
With the thought of being traded at least momentarily behind the young Lakers, the team faced off against the Boston Celtics in what became an instant classic for the most storied rivalry in sports.
LeBron James’ first game as part of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry featured the purple and gold falling behind by as many as 18 points in the first half before clawing their ways back through some hot 3-point shooting. The Lakers hit a franchise record 22 of their 41 attempts from behind the arc.
As the fourth quarter devolved into a duel between former teammates James and Kyrie Irving, it was an unlikely hero who sealed the game for LA. Former Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo hit the buzzer-beating game-winner in the arena he called home for nine years after an offensive rebound by Tyson Chandler.
After the game, Rondo went out of his way to credit head coach Luke Walton for how he got his team to respond in what has been difficult circumstances:
Rondo finished the game with 17 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds while James notched a triple-double with 28 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists. Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, JaVale McGee, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Lance Stephenson all scored in double-figures in the 129 to 128 win.
Rondo has sung Walton’s praises for much of this season, an unlikely pairing given Rondo’s known difficulty in getting along with coaches. But while Walton has been the subject of rumors about his dismissal for virtually the whole season, the team has most often responded by notching a crucial win.