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Boston Celtics

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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

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January 17, 2014 — 4:30PM (PST)
TD Waterhouse Garden, Boston, MA
TV: TWC SportsNet / TWC SportsNet Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

The Los Angeles Lakers (14-25) travel to Boston to play the Boston Celtics (14-26) tonight in a rivalry game.

The catch?

Most fans will not recognize the players who will wear the Lakers and Celtics uniform tonight; both teams have completely overhauled their team since their title runs during the last 2000′s and the early 2010′s.  The only players most fans will recognize tonight from the championship eras would be C/PF Pau Gasol and PG Rajon Rondo, who will make his season debut tonight after recovering from a Torn ACL suffered last season.

For the Lakers, team chemistry seems to be falling apart also. The NBA suspended G/F Nick Young for tonight’s game stemming from his scuffle with all 5 Suns, which included shoving Suns PG Goran Dragic‘s face, while Young’s teammates on the floor did not come to his defense, leaving Young very vulnerable.

Young clearly did not appreciate what transpired on Wednesday, calling out his teammates for not having his back.

“What I was mad about is it was one-on-five,” said Young, who has posted nine points on 4-of-8 shooting before his ejection. “If somebody had gotten in the middle, it wouldn’t have escalated that much.”

Without Young and chemistry issues starting to brew, the Lakers look to claw and fight for a much needed victory tonight, especially after losing 12 of their last 13 games.

Without Young, the Lakers seek immediate spark from SG Manny Harris, who just signed a 10-day contract with the Lakers yesterday. Harris has scored at will for the Los Angeles D-Fenders, the Lakers D-League affiliate, averaging 30.6 PPG and 6.5 RPG. Harris has drawn attention from NBA scouts recently, scoring 43.0 PPG in his last 3 games.

As previously mentioned, Rondo’s return will spark some what of a buzz in what happens to be otherwise a meaningless game between 2 lackluster teams who look to find themselves in the NBA Draft lottery. The Celtics just traded away SG Jordan Crawford and SG Marshawn Brooks to the Golden State Warriors while acquiring Joel Anthony in a cost-saving move.

Projected Starters

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

Notable Bench Players

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

Lakers: G Manny Harris, C Robert Sacre, F Ryan Kelly, C Chris Kaman

Bench Advantage: Even

Injury List

Celtics: Out-G Keith Bogans PROBABLE-PG Rajon Rondo

Lakers: Out-G Kobe Bryant, Out-PG Steve Nash, Out-PG Steve Blake, Out-G Xavier Henry, Out-PG Jordan Farmar, Out-G/F Nick Young

Keys for Lakers Victory

Defense: Despite scoring 114 vs. Suns on Wednesday, the Lakers defense failed them again, allowing 121 points to Suns. The Lakers have allowed 120.6 PPG during their losing streak, a liability nearly impossible to overcome to obtain a victory. Although Rondo will make his season debut tonight, even a shell of Rondo would torch this current Lakers defense by driving to the basket and creating open shots for his teammates.

Bottom Line

Both the Lakers and the Celtics have almost identical records. Despite losing 9 straight games before finally winning on Wednesday vs. Raptors, the Celtics find themselves still in the playoff hunt by accident, trailing the 8th seeded team in the Eastern Conference by 3 games. Meanwhile, the hopes for the Lakers to squeeze into the playoffs this season seems to be all but gone, especially without Kobe Bryant. If experts can predict 1 or 2 games the Lakers might have a chance to win during this Grammy’s road trip, it would be tonight. However, Rondo’s return and the surrounding pieces for the Celtics will most likely pose the Lakers too much problems and would be difficult once again for the Lakers to steal a victory tonight.

Prediction

Celtics: 123-104

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