L.A.: 101.5 points/100 possessions (13th)
Boston: 100.3 points/100 possessions (16th)
L.A.: 98.4 points allowed/100 possessions (11th)
Boston: 94.5 points allowed/100 possessions (2nd)
Probable L.A. starters: Derek Fisher (PG) Kobe Bryant (SG) Not Ron Artest (SF) Pau Gasol (PF) Andrew Bynum (C)
Injury Report: LAL: none. BOS: Sasha Pavlovic, Avery Bradley and Keyon Dooling are out.
The C’s and Lakers are both trying to muscle their way back into the title picture but while Boston’s been getting fat at home, the Lakers have been up and, right now, down, having lost their last two on the road in Utah and Philadelphia.
But, you don’t need me to get you up for this one, right? If you’re not counting down the minutes ’till tipoff, I can only assume you’re one of the many Glasgow Celtic (or is it Celtic FC?) fans who seem to come here by accident. To them I say, stick around mate, it could be a wee classic tonight. Square go!
Here’s a great video I nicked from Forum Blue & Gold, the excellent THN Lakers site. Give ’em a click if you want to know what the enemy is thinking (the enemy is pretty smart at that site, by the way. Well worth your time.)
We’ve got some clear contrasts tonight. The Lakers are top-heavy, with the bulk of their production coming from their twin towers and Bryant, who seems to be drinking the same anti-aging elixir as Ray Allen. The C’s have the schemes and wing defenders to keep Kobe from killing them, but if Jermaine O’Neal can’t go/ends up in foul trouble, Boston could surrender a 20-20 game to Bynum. Possibly in the first half.
The Lakers bench is a mess though, and Boston runs at least a dozen deep with contributing parts this season. They falter some nights but if the starters can hold the fort, they’re likely to be able to watch the bench extend the lead.
Three Things To Watch For
1. Kobe’s legs in the fourth quarter. Assume he’ll play long, grueling minutes against a shock of motivated Boston defenders and also do some time against Allen who will run him in circles (if Mike Brown doesn’t switch him onto Rajon Rondo first). Will Bryant be front-rimming jumpers in the fourth? He’ll definitely be taking them.
2. Second chance points. The C’s could get murdered. They probably will get murdered. Danny, please get another center.
3. Running Rondo, Shooting Rondo. Boston’s going to struggle to score in the paint, in the half-court, so pushing tempo is paramount tonight. And if the Lakers do play center field on Rondo, he needs to knock down those mid-range jumpers.
From our 5-on-5 earlier in the day, some predictions, with my own added at the end:
Forsberg: Lakers need it more; Celtics are playing better. Like we saw in the 2010 Finals, it probably comes down to the team that rebounds better. It seems like the road team is always inspired to play in this rivalry, so let’s give the nod to the Lakers, but Boston atones in early March.
Davenport: The Celtics ride their momentum. The two Laker bigs are a huge nightmare, but Kobe will take plenty of shots away from them and the Laker bench will continue to show why it’s largely made up of players who were cut by bad teams. But if the Lakers were in the midst of a homestand instead of their longest roadie of the season, things might go differently: these teams are very even right now. Celtics 94, Lakers 89.
Jackson: Celtics are at home and they’re rolling so I’ll definitely go green tonight. I’ll also predict that the C’s will get killed on the glass, Kobe will have a big scoring game, and the Lakers’ bench will get destroyed.
Robb: The Lakers. With two off-days and two straight losses, the visitors should be motivated and rested enough to end their road trip on a high note. The two-headed monster of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum will give Boston problems on the offensive glass and Kobe’s frantic scoring from all over the floor should be enough to overcome Boston’s defense. The two squads have played a bunch of tight ones in Boston lately and this should be no different. Lakers take it 87-85.
DeGama: Bynum proves largely unguardable, Gasol proves controllable and Kobe sees a lot of extra defenders between him and the basket, which deters him from shooting in the first half but not the second. The Celtics out-execute the Lakers down the stretch and take this one 95-91.