The Boston Celtics-Los Angeles Lakers rivalry may have lost some of its luster this season given the clubs’ combined 37-72 record heading into their Friday night matchup at the Staples Center, but both teams competitively battled to the finish. In the end, it was the Lakers pulling out the 101-92 victory with newly-acquired guards Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks making a good first impression with a combined 29 points off the bench—Bazemore with a career-high 15 and Brooks with 14.
In front of a Lakers crowd that hasn’t had much to cheer about in a season full of injuries and disappointment, Brooks and Bazemore also energized fans by diving for loose balls.
“Everybody got energized by these guys,” said Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni. “It was nice to see some people competing.”
Bazemore and Brooks were both part of the deal that sent veteran Lakers guard Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors. Prior to joining the Lakers, both players averaged only 4.1 minutes between them, but they were quickly thrust into the lineup of an injury-riddled Los Angeles team. On Friday night, they were unaccustomed to the extra time on the floor with Bazemore logging in 33 minutes and Brooks a season-high 23 minutes.
“I was real tired, honestly,” said Brooks. “But (Coach) D'Antoni gives you that confidence that he just wants you to go out there and play your game, so I felt free doing that.”
Despite huffing and puffing, Bazemore and Brooks made good use of the extra time, helping to spark a late comeback in a fourth quarter that saw the Lakers trailing by 11 points. Brooks opened the final quarter with six points to cut the lead to five and then scored a breakaway dunk that tied the game at 76 apiece. Bazemore connected on two 3-pointers down the stretch that stymied hopes of a late Boston comeback.
Bazemore and Brooks will both become free agents at the close of this season, so the next 27 games are more or less an audition for their next job in the NBA. If they continue to shine on this Lakers squad, one or both of them could extend their playing time with idol Kobe Bryant next season.
"That's a dream come true, growing up idolizing Kobe Bryant," said Bazemore.