February 21, 2014 — 7:30PM (PST)
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: ESPN / TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

With the build up for yesterday’s NBA Trade Deadline and continuous questions of what the Lakers front office will do this offseason, I bet a lot of Laker Nation forgot that the Los Angeles Lakers (18-36) will host their arch-rival Boston Celtics (19-36) tonight.

While the Celtics made no moves at the deadline, the Lakers surprised a lot of fans with their decision making. While the Lakers traded PG Steve Blake to the Golden State Warriors for defensive PG Kent Bazemore and scoring G Marshawn Brooks, the Lakers kept both C Chris Kaman and F Jordan Hill to the surprise of many Laker fans and columnists.

With that being said, the roster actually looks similar to their roster vs. Rockets which lies contrary to everyone’s belief.

Coach Mike D’Antoni expects C Pau Gasol to play tonight, which will shelve Kaman back to the bench after he has played very well since D’Antoni decided to play him out of necessity. Hopefully, Kaman will not end up at the end of the bench again.

The Celtics have treated this season as their rebuilding year. However they still possessing good talent that with an additional player or two, they possess potential to become very competitive in Eastern Conference soon.

4-time NBA All-Star PG Rajon Rondo continues to improve and shake off the rust from coming off a year-long ACL tear. Rondo, scoring 13.6 PPG and dishing out 9.5 APG in 11 games, will definitely cause the Lakers a lot of problems tonight by making all five Lakers on defense to keep an eye on him while he drives to the basket, finding open players behind the 3 pt. line or on a cut to the basket.

Meanwhile, C Jared Sullinger has been on a tear during the month of February. After getting scolded by his father for his bad attitude he showed on the floor, Sullinger took his father’s message to heart, playing with much more effort and passion on both ends of the floor. Sullinger has scored 15.7 PPG, grabbing 10.7 RPG, and blocking 1.7 shots per game, which clearly surpass his statistics from November through January.

Projected Starters

PG – Kendall Marshall / Rajon Rondo [Advantage: Celtics]
SG – Jodie Meeks / Avery Bradley [Advantage: Celtics]
SF – Wesley Johnson / Jeff Green [Advantage: Celtics]
PF – Ryan Kelly / Kris Humphries [Advantage: Celtics]
C – Pau Gasol / Jared Sullinger [Advantage: Lakers]

Notable Bench Players

Celtics: F Brandon Bass, F Gerald Wallace, G Jerryd Bayless

Lakers: PG Jordan Farmar, C Robert Sacre, C Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Celtics: Out-G Keith Bogans Out-C Vitor Faverani, G Avery Bradley

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-G/F Nick Young, GTD-C Pau Gasol

Keys for Lakers Victory

Feed the Bigs: If Gasol comes back tonight, feeding the post players gives the Lakers their best opportunity to win tonight. Before Gasol’s injury, he played like the player who helped lead the Lakers to 3-straight NBA appearance with SG Kobe Bryant, averaging 20.8 PPG and 11.9 RPG during the month of January. In the few games where Kaman got big minutes, he showed why he possesses one of the most fundamentally sound offensive skills in the league, using his soft hands to properly catch the ball after rolling to the basket and also using his footwork to outsmart defenders. Hopefully, the Lakers slow the pace down tonight and play to their strengths.

Bottom Line

While both teams have a minimal chance of making it to the playoffs, any Celtics vs. Lakers matchup brings intrigue, regardless of who is on the floor. If Rondo plays like the Rondo we all know him to be, he will cause problems on the offensive end and also cause PG Kendall Marshall trouble by playing up-tight on him. The Lakers should come away with a victory tonight to finally snap their worst home-losing streak in years.

Prediction

Celtics: 111-109