BOSTON — Anthony Davis had 27 points and 14 rebounds in his return to the lineup and the Los Angeles Lakers hung on to beat the Boston Celtics 96-95 on Saturday night when Daniel Theis missed a follow shot at the buzzer.
LeBron James finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in the first meeting of the season between the longtime rivals. Montrezl Harrell added 16 points for the Lakers, who lost in Detroit on Thursday when Davis rested a bruised right quadriceps.
Jayson Tatum finished with 30 points and nine rebounds for the Celtics. Jaylen Brown added 28 points. Boston has lost five out of its last seven.
The Celtics played the final 10:28 of the game without Marcus Smart, who was helped off the court with what the team said was a left calf strain following a collision with Harrell underneath the basket. Harrell tipped in a missed layup and stepped on Smart’s foot as he came down.
Smart crumpled to the court. He was helped to his feet but couldn’t put any pressure on his leg as trainers carried him to the locker room.
The Lakers surged following the injury. James broke an 85-all tie with a 3-pointer with 5:25 to play.
The lead grew as high as 96-89. But a pair of free throws by Kemba Walker, a jumper by Tatum and turnover by James gave the Celtics life with 39 seconds remaining.
Boston got the ball out of a timeout to Tatum, who got a floater to go in to cut the deficit to 96-95 and set up the final exchange. Walker knocked away Davis’ jumper and then missed a jumper on the other end. Theis swooped in but couldn’t get the follow to fall.
Smart’s injury was the latest blow to a Boston lineup that was playing with its projected starting lineup of Smart, Walker, Tatum, Brown and Theis for just the second time this season. Walker missed the first 12 games of the season recovering from a procedure on his left knee and Tatum missed multiple games earlier this month with COVID-19.
The Celtics recovered from an uneven start and outscored the Lakers 29-19 in the third quarter to take a 78-71 lead into the final period.
Boston gave the Lakers plenty of different looks on defense, including sending multiple double-teams at Davis and using a double-big man lineup that featured Theis and Robert Williams III.
Theis played some of his best minutes of the season, contributing on both ends of the floor. It included a put back dunk over Davis in the third quarter.
Lakers: Davis scored 18 points in 16 minutes in the first half. … Played without Kostas Antetokounmpo (right knee tendinitis) and Jared Dudley (sore right calf).
Celtics: Payton Pritchard missed his fourth straight game (sprained right knee).
“I think I’ve learned not to doubt the greats of all time. … There aren’t many guys like him that can play this well this late. But there weren’t many like him before.” — Celtics coach Brad Stevens on LeBron James’ level of play in his 18th season.
Lakers: Conclude road trip at Atlanta on Monday.
Celtics: Open five-game road trip at Golden State on Tuesday.
By Kyle Hightower, The Associated Press