by Rob Woollard
Agence France Presse
LOS ANGELES, United States (AFP) — Rajon Rondo returned to haunt the Boston Celtics with a game-winning buzzer-beater as the Los Angeles Lakers bounced back from a thrashing to score a dramatic 129-128 victory on Thursday.
A roller coaster battle at the TD Garden Arena was settled in the final seconds when Rondo’s fadeaway jump shot dropped into the hoop to silence a raucous Boston crowd.
It was a bittersweet moment for Rondo, who launched his career with the Celtics and spent eight seasons in Boston before leaving in 2014.
The 32-year-old, a key member of Boston’s 2008 NBA Championship-winning team, finished with 17 points.
“I couldn’t picture it being this sweet coming back, where it all started, our team struggling right now,” Rondo said. “Hopefully this will give us confidence.”
The win came just two days after the Lakers and LeBron James suffered a humiliating 42-point defeat to the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday.
Another ominous occasion looked on the cards on Thursday as the Celtics surged into a 53-35 lead midway through the second quarter.
But that 18-point deficit proved to be a catalyst for the Lakers, who seized control of the contest with an explosive burst of scoring that included a remarkable 42-point third period.
The Celtics rallied in the final quarter however and looked to have snatched a win when Kyrie Irving’s banked one in to make 128-127 with 11 seconds left. But Rondo’s late jumper sealed a morale-boosting win for the Lakers.
“We’ve been through a lot,” Rondo said. “We’ve stuck together. Coach has done a tremendous job with us. I think it shows we’re resilient. We’re a group of guys who are hungry, just looking forward to each day.”
While Rondo’s scored the winning points, the Lakers were hauled into contention with a towering performance from James, who led the scoring with 28 points and added 12 rebounds and 12 assists for a triple double.
Kyle Kuzma also added 24 points, one of seven Lakers players in double figures on the night. The Lakers improved to 28-27 with the win while Boston fell to 35-20.
James’ former Cleveland team-mate Irving led the scoring for Boston with 24 points.
Siakam fires Raptors
Elsewhere Thursday, Pascal Siakam piled on 33 points, 14 rebounds and four assists to lead Toronto to a comfortable 119-101 win over the Atlanta Hawks.
With Kawhi Leonard ruled out through injury, Siakam stepped up to lead the offensive scoring for the Raptors, who improved to 40-16 with the win.
All five Raptors starters made double figures, with Fred VanVleet adding 30 points and Kyle Lowry 13.
Serge Ibaka and Danny Green both had 12 points each while Norman Powell added 11 from the bench.
Trae Young and Taurean Prince had 19 points apiece for the Hawks, who fell to 18-36 with the defeat.
In Oklahoma City, triple-double king Russell Westbrook delivered once again to give the Thunder ad convincing 117-95 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
Westbrook finished with 15 points, 13 rebounds and 15 assists while Paul George led the scoring with 27 points. Six Thunder players finished with double-digit points tallies.
OKC’s 35th win of the season saw them tighten their grip on third place in the Western Conference table, behind the Golden State Warriors (38-15) and Denver Nuggets (37-17).
The Indiana Pacers meanwhile remain firmly in pursuit in the Eastern Conference after a 116-92 defeat of the Los Angeles Clippers in Indianapolis.
Bojan Bogdanovic topped the scoring for the Pacers with 29 points after making 12 of 19 field goal attempts.
The Pacers are now third in the East at 36-19, trailing leaders Milwaukee and second-placed Toronto.
© Agence France-Presse