LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kyle Kuzma scored 17 of his 28 points in a phenomenal fourth quarter, and the surging Los Angeles Lakers sent the Boston Celtics to their fourth consecutive loss, 108-107 Tuesday night.
Jordan Clarkson scored 22 points in the sixth consecutive home win by the Lakers, who have won three straight and seven of nine overall during their best stretch of the season. Los Angeles nearly gave it away by missing four free throws in the final 20 seconds, but Marcus Smart missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer for the Eastern Conference-leading Celtics.
Kyrie Irving scored 33 points for the Celtics, who opened a four-game road trip by extending their longest losing streak in nearly two years.
Kuzma hit five 3-pointers and dominated down the stretch before Irving and Smart, who added 22 points, led the Celtics back.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed two free throws for Los Angeles with 5.7 seconds left, but Smart’s final miss over Caldwell-Pope’s defense allowed Los Angeles to snap a four-game losing streak in this hallowed NBA rivalry.
Kuzma, the Lakers’ impressive rookie forward from Utah, had his best offensive game of the month. He put the Lakers ahead during a 3 ½-minute stretch of the fourth quarter with 13 points and a behind-the-back assist to Larry Nance Jr. for a dunk that brought Staples Center to its feet.
Irving led the Celtics back within two points late, but Kuzma and Julius Randle came up with big baskets on offensive rebounds. Smart then hit two free throws for Boston with 19.2 seconds left after Josh Hart missed two for LA, trimming the lead to 106-105.
Clarkson hit two free throws, and Terry Rozier hit a twisting layup with seven seconds left before Caldwell-Pope’s missed free throws.
Lonzo Ball missed his fifth consecutive game with a sore left knee for the Lakers, but they’ve developed a solid offensive approach in the absence of the rookie point guard. Replacements Tyler Ennis and Alex Caruso contributed little offensively, but Clarkson had another outstanding playmaking game, and Randle contributed 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Irving staked Boston to a lead early in the fourth quarter, but Kuzma erased it with a pair of 3-pointers and the behind-the-back pass to Nance.
Celtics: Al Horford returned with 13 points and 12 rebounds after missing the last game in the concussion protocol after taking an elbow to the head. … Boston beat the Lakers 107-96 on Nov. 8.
Lakers: Caldwell-Pope (right heel) and Brandon Ingram (sprained left ankle) played after being questionable before game time. Ingram had seven points on 2-for-11 shooting. … Kuzma has 15 20-point games this season, the most by a Lakers rookie since Eddie George in 1995. … Fans near courtside included Ryan Leaf, Dodgers stars Kenley Jansen and Yasiel Puig, and comedian Nick Kroll.
Gordon Hayward was with the Celtics after traveling to Los Angeles last week. He will stay in town for the next 7-10 days to continue his rehabilitation from his horrifying left ankle injury just five minutes into the season. Boston coach Brad Stevens said the move is designed “just to mix it up” during Hayward’s extensive rehab, which is still proceeding on schedule. Stevens said Hayward could begin traveling with the team full-time by early March as he continues to work toward a return. Until then, he’ll watch practice from the sidelines while staying as stationary as possible. “He’s a really good spot-up shooter,” Stevens said with a grin.
Celtics: Stay in LA to face the Clippers at Staples Center on Wednesday night.
Lakers: At the Chicago Bulls on Friday night to open a five-game road trip. LA plays 11 of its next 14 on the road.