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Game 52/82: Lakers (36-16) @ Celtics (38-13) Open Thread

 

Los Angeles at Boston

8 P.M. ET – TD Garden

CSNNE/TNT


Offensive Efficiency:

Boston: 105.4 points/100 possessions (13th)

Los Angeles: 109.3 points/100 possessions (3rd)

Defensive Efficiency:

Boston: 97.7 points allowed/100 possessions (2nd)

Los Angeles: 102.0 points allowed/100 possessions (8th)

Probable Lakers starters:

  • Derek Fisher (PG)
  • Kobe Bryant (SG)
  • Ron Artest (SF)
  • Pau Gasol (PF)
  • Andrew Bynum (C)

Current Celtics Injuries:

Shaquille O’Neal, Semih Erden, Jermaine O’Neal, Delonte West, Marquis Daniels

Thumbnail: It’s Ray Allen’s night.

The outcome of tonight’s game will take a back seat to Allen’s quest for two three-point shots. The first will tie him with Reggie Miller for first overall in NBA history with 2560. The second will break the record.

The game itself carriers real import for the C’s, less for their need to benchmark themselves against their main challenger for the championship, than for the jostling for home-court advantage in the playoffs. Miami is only a half-game behind Boston, and L.A., for all the recent chaos around the team, is only three games back in the loss column.

Injuries be damned, Boston can’t let up off the gas pedal.

PREVIEW:

In lieu of our traditional preview, we reached out to Darius Soriano at the True Hoop Network’s must-read Lakers site Forum Blue & Gold. He was kind enough to field some questions for us on the state of the Lakers. I also answered a few questions over there, including a rather declarative statement about what the Celtics need to do about the Marquis Daniels injury.

But now, onwards to the Q&A, which Darius stuffed with a ton of insight into Black Mamba & the Zen Masters.

CelticsHub: There have been a number of ‘it’s time to panic!’-style stories surrounding the Lakers since they lost to the Celtics last week. It all seems overblown for a team with the second best offense in the league and a top-10 defense . What’s your state of the nation?

Forum Blue & Gold: I’d agree that the panic is a bit overblown, but when you’re dealing with high expectations, that’s going to happen when a team doesn’t perform as well as many would like. Celtics fans should be familiar with this from their run last season.

All that said, things clearly aren’t perfect or even where I’d want them to be. I have concerns regarding their defense from game to game and on offense the turnover bug has popped up too often for my liking. From an individual standpoint, Fisher, Blake, and Artest have not been as consistent as I would hope. But in the larger scheme of things, I don’t think any of these drawbacks are fatal flaws that can’t be overcome in the pursuit of their ultimate goal.

In some ways, I think the drama surrounding this team is a given as the Kobe/Phil-era Lakers have always seemed to inspire questions or second guessing about whether or not they’d get it done. So really, this is just par for the course. For the fans, the roller coaster nature of a long NBA campaign is tough to deal with, but I still feel this team is well positioned to make a deep playoff run.

CH: What’s the biggest barrier sitting between the Lakers and a three-peat?

FB&G: I’d say there are two factors and they go hand in hand. First and foremost, the opposition is just better this season. The Spurs, Heat, and Celtics all look to be stronger than last season and when you throw in the Thunder gaining post season experience last year (along with the improved individual play of Westbrook and the always fantastic Durant) they’ll also be a tough out. So, while the Lakers are no worse a team than last year, merely being as good as the team that won the title likely won’t be good enough this season.

The second factor is health. We all know that Bynum has had his share of injury issues over the years but this year the Lakers will need him as close to 100% as possible if they hope to make a deep run. Right now, Barnes is also out after suffering a torn meniscus but he’ll need to be back and contributing by the time the playoffs start (which he should be) in order to give the Lakers that extra wing defender. In seasons past, the Lakers margin for error was larger and a hobbled Bynum or a missing wing (last season Kobe played back up SF for most of the season) didn’t hamper them too severely. This year, though, with the field of true contenders much stronger, they’ll need their health to claim the trophy.

CH: Artest and Bynum. Will they both be Lakers post trade-deadline?

FB&G: I’d say yes. I know with the latest round of ‘Melo/Bynum rumors and the story about Ron wanting out that this is the hot topic surrounding the Lakers, but both of those players are key to the Lakers’ defense and will be depended upon when the playoffs begin. Whether it’s Ginobili, Durant, Rudy Gay, or Carmelo in the West or Lebron, Wade, or Pierce in the East (should the Lakers advance that far) there are too many wing threats for the Lakers to go through for Artest to be thought of as a spare part that can easily be replaced or given away (even with Barnes on the roster).

As for Bynum, most people understand that the Lakers main strength is their size and versatility up front (along with that Kobe guy, of course). A combo of Bynum and Gasol allows the Lakers to start two legitimate 7 footers and when you combine those two with Odom you have a mix of front court talent that is tough to match up with across the league. I just don’t see the Lakers surrendering this advantage to upgrade their offense on the wing or at point guard. Especially not when the Lakers have had been the top offensive team – both in points per game and in efficiency – for most of the season.

CH: Kobe seemed to take Henry Abbott’s findings on clutch-ness to heart in the last C’s-Lakers tilt. But all those fourth quarter ISOs played into Boston’s hands. Should we expect something different tonight?

FB&G: I honestly thought Kobe’s approach in the last game was a bit overblown. While he did go to a lot of isolation plays in the 4th quarter, I thought that had more to do with how the entire team was playing up to that point rather than his want to prove or disprove what anyone was saying/writing about him. And really, this approach fell right in line with how Kobe has operated in the most of the games this season. On nights where he’s mostly single covered he’ll be aggressive in looking for his own shot while trying to pick out teammates that are actively cutting and moving off the ball. When Kobe is double teamed or the defense shifts a second defender in his direction, he’s a willing passer. In the last Celtics/Lakers game, what we saw was a breakdown of other Lakers actively participating in the offense and Kobe then taking it upon himself to score (as Phil Jackson said after the game it really didn’t look like any other players wanted the ball). I thought he could have balanced this approach better in the last few minutes of the game, but overall I saw a lot of reluctance from other Lakers to be as aggressive as they needed to be.

To answer your question though, I anticipate the Lakers relying less on wing isolations and more on standard post ups for Pau, Bynum, and Kobe. This will allow them go at their defenders from better positions on the floor and more effectively compromise the Celtics help schemes. I envision better off ball movement and harder/crisper screens to free up players off the ball to make easier catches in order to generate the offensive balance that’s needed to beat a defensive juggernaut like the Celtics. The ball must work inside out with the post play of Gasol featured prominently throughout the contest. This game plan is not new as these teams have faced off countless times in the past several seasons. It’s just a matter of not pressing and sticking to it even when the team comes up with empty possessions. Because, again, when you play such a strong defensive team, that’s going to happen.

CH: Who do you have making the finals in both conferences?

FB&G: Before the season started I had the Lakers and Celtics meeting again and I’ll stick to that. The Celtics look as good as ever and seem to have a schematic and chemistry advantage over the Heat and other Eastern contenders. As for the Lakers, this year will be a test to get back to the Finals due to the aforementioned stiff and improved competition out West but still think they’ll get it done. I could easily see tough series in the 2nd round and Conference Finals that really push them, where key victories will need to be had on the road. But I still think it will be very difficult to defeat them in a seven-game series as the game slows, team-specific game plans get implemented, and the opposition actually has to deal with a focused, motivated, and deep Laker team.

***

WHAT WE WANT TO SEE FROM BOSTON TONIGHT:

Strong interior defense as Gasol and Bynum attempt to rebound from their soft performances against the Celtics in Los Angeles. Effective minutes from Von Wafer at the backup small forward position. Rondo overcoming whatever the Lakers throw at him – be it Kobe playing centerfield or Fisher/Blake D’ing up on him. Also, an all-time record being matched and then shattered.

PREDICTION:

Ray breaks the record in the first quarter and final score looks something like:

Boston 94 Los Angeles 92

  • Steve B

    What I'd like to see. Boston winning 97-84. Ray breaking the record by going 7 for 10 on 3's. And Derek Fisher getting a technical for his dramatic flops everytime someone touches him.

    • Ryan DeGama

      You've got a better shot at the first two things than the last, which appears to fall into the "when hell freezes over" category.

  • Tos

    Why do you always spell Fisher like that? Fischer.. It’s Fisher. And I don’t even like the guy. Go Celtics! Ray Allen for THREEEEEE!

  • Stephen

    Exactly , but that is what players like Fisher do when they have no game left.

  • Jason

    Big injury omission: Quisy!

  • Jason

    I didn't mention it in a "you made a typo" sense but in a "don't forget that his absence significantly impacts the game" sense. Then again, in the actual preview, you did mention him, so never mind.

  • Carlos R

    Whatever happens tonight, I just hope the greens will start playing hard against mediocre and bad teams. With all the latest injuries it's safe to assume the C's will lose some games, and could eventually lose the first seed in the east. Those silly loses against the Wizards, Raptors, Bobcats, Rockets, Cleveland and Thunder minus Westbrook seems bigger than Mount Everest righ now.

  • Kareem

    Let's go Lakers

    • someguyinsac

      Go Home to your own fanboy board.

  • celtics smd

    Lakers will crush the celtics like we did in 2010

    • lalsuck

      i’ll crush ur face..

  • I_Love_Green

    Please Celtics, win this game. I can't take another loss like last nights (UNC vs. Duke).

    Our lack of big men will really hurt us against this team, but I see us getting off to a hot start, and after Ray breaks the record everyone plays inspired basketball so his night can end in a win.

    102-97 Celtics win! Celtics win!

  • dtla la

    Without Quis, the C's are too vulnerable to Baby not having a good game and Wafer and Harangody unable to provide decent defensive minutes.

    WE NEED A BACKUP 3

  • Avinash

    Congrats Ray!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Chris O

    RAY ALLEN FOR THREE….words of the night lol

  • JCP

    It's official… Ray is the MAN.

    Unofficially… VON WAFER?! Keep it up!

  • Cool Hand Luke

    Ray is glorious. You know he's feeling good when he dunks.

    (I'm developing a huge crush on Vakeaton Quamar Wafer, plus, I want his name)

  • dslack

    Good work, Ray.

  • XRIPX

    Praise Jesus… the Shuttlesworth one!

  • ElRoz

    Well, as I've been predicting – really only just describing this very very unhealthy Boston team – they lose a player every 5-6 games. I WAS WRONG – they lose a player every other game now….nobody left off the bench besides 2 guys…and Von Wafer is a 3rd string player.

    There is NO luck or any good things happening with this team…now we will see it spin out and down in the East – Danny Ainge did all he could, but he got very very unlucky players…or very unhealthy. 2010 will look like a blessing now.

    Either way: this fact is certain – with every few games they will continue to lose key players. Come Mid-April the situation is very likely to be WORSE, not better. Let;s not delude oursleves – this will keep going.

    This team is done – visit them at the hospital. Great effort an fighting spirit – yes…but who rememebrs 2009 playoffs? Nobody cares.

    Shall we get ready for another injury when Miami arrves?

  • WTF

    The C's cannot hang with the elite offensive teams like the Lakers, the Heat, the Mavericks because they don't anymore have a star to dump the ball to for putting points on the board in a tight game. The second half of this game is a clear proof. They are going to lose to LeBron and Wade in next game. No more championships for the Big Three.

  • kricky

    KG must be rolin' over in his his grave after that effort. Wait…you mean to tell me KG's still alive?? I almost forgot with the way he played tonight.

    Congrats to Ray. What an accomplishment. But all this individual accolades BS All Star Games, records to be broken, seem to have added a bit of complacency. I can't wait till after the All Star break when the team can get back to business. Winning #18.

    • ElRoz

      with what players?

      Just the starting five?

  • ElRoz

    …so…is Bostin looking at 1-3 home stand vs. the big 4 teams…or hoping for a 2-2?

    2-2 seems very optimistic as they have no bench now.

    The important thing is to rest Shaq so that he can come back and get hurt in March.

    Danny Ainge, by the way, will have nothing to trade with to get a guy…everybody is hurt.

  • Batman

    Wow you call yourselves Celtics fans? yes there is a limit to what fans can take and yes you have the right to complain but wow giving up on the season already? You need to chill out and stop whining we’re not the ones out there playing and we as fans need to support them. If u r giving up cause we r going through tough times well Boston doesn’t need you. Sorry if my comment is mean but I’m frustrated too and you r not making it any better and I need to speak my mind .

    • someguyinsac

      Only bandwagon fans throw in the towel before the last second of the last game, but I'm not and never will be one of THEM.

    • Attila

      Are you the real Batman?

  • I_Love_Green

    Good job Ray.

    Oh and Perk try catching the ball for once, Paul stop trying circus shots, Rondo….I don't know, KG show up, and WILL PLEASE SOMEONE GRAB A GOD DAMN MOTHER FUCKING REBOUND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Holy shit it was game 7 all over again with the double digit lead disappearing earlier. This game pissed me off like no other. And I bet we'll just roll over for the Heat after the 1st quarter because we have a lot of injuries and foul trouble. No fucking excuses, we're much better than the lakers, and we made them look like deserving back to back champs. We seriously better bring effort for 48 minutes against the Heat, or I'm going to strangle somebody.

    • Batman

      We should strangle one of the Hub writers. I say Brian cause he ignored me once grrrrr

      • I_Love_Green

        Doesn't matter to me. As long as I get to strangle out my anger.

  • Rob

    I just can’t get over the fact that we lost a game where we had a 15 point lead…not the first time this had happend

  • skeeds

    well that's the first time we lose to the Lakers and I couldn't care less. With a 9 man roster after Nate went out, Pierce with the flu, I really don't care, cause it's just a game.
    I'd love it if we won, but it's Ray's night. Officially an NBA legend, officially the best marksman in history, Ray, you are the 3point king.

    And for all the whiners above, way to stick for your team when it's going through a rough stretch. Really, proclaiming the team done, and complaining about "KG" playing like dead. Yeah, against the best frontline in the NBA, with half a center at his side. Perk isn't exactly in top form you know, and the three of them with Baby, have been sharing a 5 man load for little less than a month.
    It's last season all over again isn't it? Moaning and groaning that KG is through, wondering what we could get if we traded Ray, predicting a 1st round playoff embarrasement.
    You know what? we're probably gonna lose to the Heat too in a couple of days, and it's gonna be a bad one. You might want to stop bitching for a trade and consider picking another team to support alltogether. The rest of us will be fine.

    • kricky

      I'm not moaning that KG is through. Just criticizing his game last night. Also the team should have tried to get him ore involved in the offense and to go to him in the post. That seemed to work a bit last time and it opened things up. Too much settling on jumpers last night. Which eventually caught up to us in the end.

      As fans we live and breathe this stuff. The losses are tough on us and we have a right to criticize our team.

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