Irving scores 30 as Celtics playoff push gains traction


Los Angeles (AFP)

Kyrie Irving scored 30 points as the Boston Celtics overcame LeBron James' 80th career triple-double with a 120-107 victory over the injury-riddled Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.

Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris each scored 16 points for Boston, who are gaining traction in their post All-Star break playoff push.

Gordon Hayward added 15 points as the Celtics won their third consecutive game on a four-game California road trip that concludes Monday against the Los Angeles Clippers.

The Celtics' latest match-up with their storied rivals didn't really live up to the history -- the Lakers are struggling mightily and appear to have given up on any chance of making it to the NBA postseason.

Irving, who missed Wednesday's victory over the Sacramento Kings with a bruised thigh, nailed a series of clutch shots down the stretch. He also tallied seven rebounds and seven assists.

"I am just having fun. We are competing at a very high level and holding ourselves to a high standard and it starts with me," said Irving. "It is another step for us in the road trip."

Irving and James are former teammates, winning an NBA title with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016.

James can only dream of similar success with his current team, which has now lost five straight.

On Saturday he finished with 30 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds, leading a rag-tag Lakers crew that was missing three starters.

Moe Wagner scored a career-high 22 points in his first start for Los Angeles and Johnathan Williams added a career-best 18 points for the Lakers, who have lost nine of 11. Rajon Rondo finished with four points.

James played just 27 minutes, more than six minutes less than rookie Wagner.

"It is challenging, but I kind of I knew what I was getting into," James said after the game.

"I didn't expect to be out five weeks at a crucial point in the season and also didn't expect the other brain of the team, Rajon Rondo, to be out five and a half weeks. We both got hurt at the same time and it was a hit on our team."

The Lakers played Saturday without Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma after receiving more disheartening injury news before the contest.

Ingram was ruled out for the season with a blood clot in his upper body.

Ball is likely out for the rest of the season with a sprained ankle.

James' reduced minutes gave credence to pre-game speculation that coach Luke Walton may be limiting his playing time for the remainder of the season.

It appears the Lakers are looking to the offseason and some Laker fans feel the team has already given up. Earlier this week, rapper Snoop Dogg announced he was selling his season tickets for $5.

- Towns hurt -

Elsewhere, Minnesota franchise player Karl-Anthony Towns had 40 points and 16 rebounds before leaving late in the fourth quarter with a knee injury as the Timberwolves beat the Washington Wizards 135-130 in overtime.

Minnesota outscored the Wizards 14-9 in overtime to earn their fifth straight victory at home.

Derrick Rose scored 29 points, including a clutch basket that gave the Timberwolves a 131-127 lead with 58 seconds left.