February 23, 2024

If you walked into the TD Garden on Thursday, you wouldn’t expect to see Rui Hachimura tongue-wagging, Austin Reaves confidently firing from 40 feet, Jaxson Hayes owning the area above the rim and D’Angelo Russell flying around on both sides of the court.

Because if you hadn’t already heard that the Lakers would be without LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the sight of them in their street clothes on the end of the bench would’ve delivered the message.

This wasn’t going to be the Lakers’ night.

But without their two All-Stars, the Lakers delivered the kind of performance that should give the team plenty to think about as they near the NBA trade deadline.

Led by Reaves’ best offensive game of the year, the Lakers upset the full-strength Celtics 114-105. It’s just the Celtics’ third loss in Boston this season.

The Lakers trailed just once after the first quarter.

Reaves scored 32 on a career-high seven threes. Russell had 16 points and 14 assists (while putting together a strong defensive game) and Hayes finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, both personal bests as a Laker. Hachimura added 15 off the bench.

The big game with the Celtics certainly didn’t feel that way at tip-off, not with James and Davis having been ruled out earlier in the day.

The two Lakers stars missed their first game together this season, James sitting because of his bothersome ankle and Davis out because of Achilles tendon and hip injuries. Both players participated in Thursday’s light shoot-around but were scratched not long after.

Both are considered day-to-day, with Davis saying he had been feeling better before he was downgraded.

Before the game, he was announced as an All-Star reserve in the Western Conference, joining James who was selected as a starter.

And the Lakers, who have been dealing with one injury or another all season long, saw their luck worsen in the first half Thursday when Jarred Vanderbilt limped off the court with a non-contact right foot injury. He didn’t return and his X-rays were negative.

Whether it’s been Gabe Vincent’s extended absence or the 20 games Vanderbilt missed to start the season with a left foot injury, the Lakers haven’t had their full team for any sizable sample. And with just one week before the NBA’s trade deadline, that’s left the Lakers with less-than-ideal information to judge themselves on.

“I mean, you start with your two best players and what they need around them in order for them to function at a high level,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said when asked about the guiding principles heading into the deadline. “And (you) work your way back from that.”

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