The Celtics and Lakers square off for the final time this season, this time at the Staples Center. In their first meeting, the Celtics came out on top 116-95 in spite of having played the night before in Toronto and getting in at 3 am after going through customs and traveling back to Boston.
The Celtics are once again playing in back to back games, this time after playing another tough game the night before in Denver. The Lakers have been off since before the All Star break and should either be well rested or rusty. Hopefully, the latter. The Celtics will be slightly less undermanned as Terrence Williams has received his release from China and will be available to play tonight.
The Celtics have dropped to 8-16 on the road while the Lakers are 16-11 at home. The Celtics are 8-2 in their last 10 games while the Lakers are 6-4 in their last 10. The Celtics are looking to start a new winning streak after the loss last night in Denver and the Lakers are also looking for a win after losing their final game before the break.
This will be a tough game to face the Lakers. It is the first game after the death of their long time owner, Dr Jerry Buss. I imagine that there will be added motivation to win one for Dr Buss. Also, they will have revenge on their mind for the blow out loss in Boston. Also, with the trade deadline coming tomorrow, the players may be somewhat distracted by all of the idiotic rumors floating around. Add that to the fact that the Celtics are yet again playing in back to back games on the road, and this one gets very tough for the green team.
Although the luster may have come off the rivalry between these two teams considering their struggles this season, it is still Celtics vs Lakers and that's always a game that the Celtics circle on their calendars.
Center: Kevin Garnett
Rajon Rondo (knee) out
Jared Sullinger (back) out
Leandro Barbosa (knee) out
Center: Dwight Howard
Small Forward: Ron Artest -------------------- Power Forward: Earl Clark
Pau Gasol (foot) out
Jordan Hill (hip) out
Courtney Lee vs Kobe Bryant
Kobe has had some problems with his elbow, but that won't stop him from playing and from putting up big numbers. Against the Nets on Tuesday, Kobe finished with 21 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals. He had to shoot 24 shots though to get 21 points. One thing is for certain, Kobe will keep shooting, whether he is hitting or not. CLee has to harass him enough to make him miss more than he makes.
Avery Bradley vs Steve Nash
Steve Nash can score and can set up his teammates, but he has never been known for his speed or his defense. With Avery's speed, he should be able to beat Nash and get to the hoop. He should also be able to keep Nash from putting up big numbers.
Keys to the Game
Rebound - Rebounding is key to getting a win. A big reason for this is that much of rebounding is effort and desire and the team that wants it most goes harder after the rebounds and the team that wants it more wins the game.
Defense - Defense is the key to winning this game and to winning Banner 18. The Celtics have been winning with their defense and they need to continue that tough lock down defense, especially in this game if they want to get the win. They have to defend both the perimeter and the paint as the Lakers are capable of hitting the long ball as well as getting to the hoop to score.
Push the Ball - The Celtics have found success in pushing the ball up the court quickly before the defense can get set. They need to continue to do this and to advance the ball with the pass rather than walking it up. Ball movement will be key.
Hustle and Effort - The Celtics must come out with energy and go after every loose ball and every rebound. They have to be the team that wants it more if they want to win this game. The Lakers will be motivated to avenge the loss in Boston and the Celtics have to match their intensity. The Celtics must be the more aggressive team.
Fatigue and the Road
The Celtics are playing in back to back games once again. They were able to overcome the fatigue of back to back games in Boston but that was at home. This time they are on the road and played a tough game the night before. Hopefully they will have enough in the tank to pull this one out.
A veteran official of 18 NBA seasons, Scott Foster has worked 1,124 regular season and 94 playoff games, including eight Finals games during his career. He was a member of the crew that officiated the 1996 Europe Tour in Berlin, Germany and Seville, Spain. In addition to his NBA experience, Foster has two years of CBA officiating experience, two years of collegiate officiating experience in the Southern and Big South conferences and six years of high school officiating experience in Maryland.
Foster came into the public eye as the best friend of former referee Tim Donaghy. In his book, Donaghy describes Foster as a very honest and good guy who knew nothing of his gambling. However, recently Donaghy described Foster as a company man who will do what is asked of him to keep his seniority among refs. Foster was part of the 2010 Finals game 7 officiating crew that called the final quarter completely different than the first 3 quarters and very one sided for the Lakers with 21 free throws for the Lakers and 6 for the Celtics in the final 12 minutes.
The Celtics are 1-2 this season and 5-5 in their last 10 games with Foster on the court. Foster called a 107-75 loss to Philly in the preseason this year, a loss at Detroit and a win vs the Bucks. None of the 3 games was remarkable, one way or the other. The Lakers are 0-3 this season and 4-6 with Foster in their last 10 games. He isn't usually influenced by the home crowd as many of the refs are. His home W/L record this season is 22-20. Foster as a lead ref can be very good but he can also be very bad.
Mark Ayotte completed his eighth NBA season having officiated 469 regular season games. Prior to joining the NBA, Ayotte was a WNBA official for four years and a CBA official for three years. He spent one year officiating in the NBA Development League. Ayotte has 12 years of collegiate officiating experience, having participated in the Pac-10, Big Sky and West Coast conferences. He officiated in the Pac-10 Conference Tournament and the Big Sky Conference Tournament, including the finals. Ayotte also was an official for the preseason and postseason NIT. He has 10 years of high school officiating experience in the state of Arizona. Prior to becoming a professional basketball referee, Ayotte worked as a Systems Design and Test Engineer with AG Communication Systems.
The Celtics are 1-1 this season and 4-6 over their last 10 games with Ayotte. He called a won over the Nets in the preseason and a loss at Detroit and the officiating was ok in both. The Lakers are 1-4 this season and 2-8 over their last 10 with Ayotte. Ayotte was one of the refs in the Mavs/OKC game in which Marc Cuban was fined $75,000 for criticizing the referees. Ayotte has a home W/L record this season is 28-12.
Gary Zielinski has officiated 668 regular season games and nine Playoff games. In addition to his 11 seasons in the NBA, Zielinski officiated for seven seasons in the CBA and four in the WNBA. Zielinski worked the CBA Finals from 1997-2000, the CBA All-Star Game in 1995 and the WNBA Finals from 1998-2001.
The Celtics are 1-3 this season with Zielinski in the court. One loss was the first game vs the Pistons who shot 26 free throws to 19 for the Celtics. He also called the loss at Golden State where the Celtics shot 21 free throws to 16 for the Warriors. In a win over the Pacers last season the officiating was terrible. The Celtics shot 14 free throws to 31 for the Pacers and in one sequence at the end, with the Celtics ahead the refs gave the Pacers 3 shots and the ball on a bogus flagrant and technical foul on Pietrus. Zielinski also called a loss to the Lakers last season where LA shot 20 free throws to 5 for the Celtics. That is not a misprint. The Celtics shot FIVE free throws for the game. This season Zielinski was accused of cursing at DeMarcus Cousins when giving him a T but nothing ever came of it as far as was reported. The Celtics are 5-5 in their last 10 games with Zielinski on the court while the Lakers are 1-1 this season and 6-4 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 26-18.