Boston (41 – 9) vs.
LA Lakers (39 – 9)
8:00 PM ET, TNT
Three things to watch for tonight:
The Lakers will be playing their fifth game in a six game road trip that has zigzagged across the country with stops in Minnesota, Memphis, New York and Toronto. Not exactly an ideal traveling schedule. The good news for the Celtics is that besides the Lakers playing their 2nd game of a back to back, coming off a win last night in Toronto, they will be playing their fifth game in seven nights. The competition has not been challenging, with LA picking up wins against all four opponents so far — all sub .500 teams. However, none of the wins have been true blowouts until the end of the games with the starters logging major minutes in all of them, especially PauGasol who has averaged 43 minutes a game since Andrew Bynum went down. Knowing this, it won’t be surprising to see the Celtics have their foot on the gas from the beginning of this game with Rajon Rondo to try to run on and wear down what is likely to be a tired Lakers team.
As noted earlier, Gasolhas seen increased playing time since Bynum went down and has been sure to reap the benefits posting huge lines averaging of 31 points and 14.5 rebounds in his last two games. It should be a different story in Boston tonight as Kendrick Perkins should make life tougher for Gasoldown low. It will be interesting to see if the Celtics give any help to Perkins down low, and if a well rested Kevin Garnett will match up with Gasolat all when Lamar Odom, (who was inserted into the starting lineup at PF once Bynum got hurt) is out of the game. Gasolkilled the Celtics down the stretch on Christmas Day, making several clutch plays down the stretch off of feeds from Kobe Bryant to wrap up that game for the Lakers. With Bynum not in there to clog up the lane however and take some attention off of Gasol, it will be intriguing to see how effective he is.
Who guards Kobe? The likely answer is a mix of PaulPierce, Ray Allen, and Tony Allen, who in particular has always been a pest to Kobe when the two teams have matched up. Kobehas clearly taken more of the offensive burden once Bynumwent down, attempting 28 shots last night after going for 61 points Monday night in MSG. It will be interesting to see if the Celtics try to double or trap Kobeor instead let him get his 30-35 points and key on shutting down the rest of the Lakers offense.