Lakers in Boston to Battle the Celtics

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It’s Thursday February 9, 2012 and the (14-11) Los Angeles Lakers have traveled to Boston to square off against the (14-10) Celtics in basketball’s best rivalry. Tonight’s match up is a historic rivalry renewed at the TD Banknorth Garden.

There is never a shortage of storylines when the Celtics and Lakers collide. These two storied franchises are synonymous with NBA history seeing as both franchises have combined to win more than half of all the NBA championships.

However, tonight’s contest does not seem to possess its normal buzz. The Celtics stumbled out of the starting gate posting a 5-9 mark, but have righted the ship; Boston has gone 10-2 since their slow start. Boston currently ranks as the best defensive team in the league allowing 86.5 points per game.

The Lakers split their last two season series (1-1) after sweeping the 2008-2009 series. The Lakers are 6-4 in their last 10 regular season games in Boston, have won their last three straight at TD Banknorth Garden and are 5-1 in their last six meetings in Boston. The Celtics are playing their best basketball of the season and have put together a five-game winning streak.

The Lakers are close to a turnaround, but have not played a complete game and now have a 3-9 road record. The Lakers are looking to snap a two-game losing skid.  This game will be an emotionally charged event.

Although the Lakers have to keep their emotions in check, live in the moment, play smart basketball, get a solid contribution from everyone in a purple and gold jersey and execute. The Lakers have to do a better job of moving the basketball and moving bodies to avoid scoring draughts, like the one that occurred in the late game collapse in Philadelphia when the Lakers found a way to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory.

This is essentially a playoff game that will come down to half court execution and defensive stops. The Celtics will try to be physical with the Lakers and take them out of their offense and force the big players to be jump shooters. The Lakers front line Andrew Bynum & Pau Gasol, have to be play big be physical, aggressive and attack the basket and finish whenever receiving the ball in the post.

The Lakers will once again see a zone defense and need to analyze it to decipher what type of zone it is, be patient, and get the ball to one of their big players to break the zone, but take the first open good percentage shot. The Lakers still have to get the ball inside and attack said zone and then crash the offensive boards. The Lakers need to treat every shot as a miss and collectively attack the boards.

The Lakers have to avoid the temptation of shooting jump shots and continue to move the ball to find a high percentage shot going to the basket. The Lakers have to run their offense through the post. Don’t be surprised to see Kobe Bryant in the post tonight. Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol need multiple touches in the painted area to affect the outcome of this game.

Kobe Bryant’s 29.3 points per game average is leading the NBA. Bryant is also leading the Lakers in scoring, assists and steals, but in tonight’s match up Bynum & Gasol need more than a combined 27 shots. Bryant will have to wear the facilitator hat early to get everyone involved and switch to the closer’s hat late.

The Lakers big three of Kobe, Andrew and Pau are scoring the lion’s share of the points with the contribution of the rest of the team best described as slim to none. In the Lakers loss to the 76ers, the big three combined for 64 points and the rest of the team scored a pedestrian 26 points. The Lakers need consistency and production from their reserves and the bench needs to produce 30+ points.

It is imperative that the Lakers do a solid job defending the pick-and-roll play, stop the dribble penetration of the guards (Rajon Rondo is second in the league in assists at 9.8 per game), control the tempo, get back in transition, box out their men then go after the rebound. The Lakers have to play solid defense in the post and force the Celtics to shoot over them, quickly rotate out to open shooters and extend their defense to the three-point line. The purple and gold have to rise to the occasion and match the intensity of the Celtics.

Starters
Lakers: D. Fisher, K. Bryant, M. Peace, P.Gasol, A. Bynum
Celtics:
R. Rondo, R. Allen, P. Pierce, K. Garnett, J.O’Neal   

Tip-off: 5:00 PM PST

Television -

  • Los Angeles: TNT
  • Boston: TNT

Radio -

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
  • Boston: 850 WEEI (Sean Grande & Cedric Maxwell)

Injuries -

Lakers:

  • Josh McRoberts (Sprained Left Big Toe) Probable
  • Kobe  Bryant (Torn Lunotriquetral Ligament, Right Wrist) Probable
  • Steve Blake (Bruised Ribs) Out

Celtics:

  • Keyon Dooling (Right Hip Pointer) Day-to-Day
  • Marques Daniels (Mild Right Ankle Sprain) Day-to-Day
Jeff Little is the pre-game writer for LakerNation.com. Follow him on Twitter.