Tatum started 1 for 5 from the floor before getting his offense flowing, driving hard for a handful of baskets.
“We stress making quick decisions,” Boston coach Ime Udoka said. “When he holds it, the crowds get to him. He was extremely aggressive.”
The teams who have accounted for nearly half of the NBA’s championships with 17 apiece renewed their rivalry in front of a raucous TD Garden crowd that made it seem like a playoff atmosphere from the opening tip.
Russell — introduced as a “true Celtics legend” when he was welcomed back by the PA announcer and shown on the Jumbotron midway into the opening quarter — was seated courtside wearing a hat with the initials “KB” encircled in a yellow heart on the front for Kobe Bryant.
Pierce, who went into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this year, was also courtside.
The Celtics led by 11 points entering the final quarter and opened a 109-94 lead on Tatum’s three-point play with 6:59 remaining. His 3-pointer from the left corner increased it to 116-99 with 5:02 to go.
The Lakers made nine of their initial 12 shots en route to a 38-30 lead after one quarter.
James’ first basket came on a thundering dunk off a drive down the lane 2 ½ minutes into the game.
Boston erased a 14-point deficit in the second quarter and took the lead before James’ fast-break layup gave the Lakers a 61-60 halftime edge.
The Celtics were without two starters but rallied.
“It shows we’re not perfect, but the fight is in us,” Smart said.
The Celtics opened the second half with a 14-4 surge and led 93-82 entering the fourth.
Lakers: Davis had been listed as probable with a right thigh injury. … Asked before the game what the Lakers missed without James, coach Frank Vogel said: “Just quarterbacking it, and leading and running the team.” … It was their second of a five-game road trip.
Celtics: Udoka said F Jaylen Brown is “close” to returning and “really wanted to play” on Friday. The team’s leading scorer at 26.5 points per game missed his seventh straight with a right hamstring injury. … C Robert Williams III missed his second straight with a left knee injury. … Patriots owner Robert Kraft and a few Pats players were also seated courtside.
Udoka said that his boss, Brad Stevens, the former Celtics coach before becoming the team’s president after last season, explained what the first-year coach was about to experience running his first game against the Lakers.
“He said: ‘Buckle up,’’’ Udoka said. “The city is clamoring for this matchup all the time.”
FROM THE OTHER SIDE
Vogel, in his third season with LA, has already been involved in the rivalry. He didn’t hesitate when talking about the matchup before the game.
“It’s the best in all of sports in my opinion,’’ he said.
Vogel was also an assistant with the Celtics from 2001-04.
Lakers: At Detroit on Sunday.
Celtics: Host Oklahoma City on Saturday night.
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