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Celtics Face Lakers in Must Win Game


 Boston Celtics (25-3) at Los Angeles Lakers (18-10)

Sunday, December 30
9:30 PM ET
Game #29, Road Game #14
Sirius 143
Staples Center

Lakers Coverage     Forum Blue and Gold    l     With Malice  

The Celtics- Lakers rivalry is one of the most storied in all basketball. In recent years it just wasn't the same because the Celtics had fallen on hard times. But, with the resurgence of the Celtics this year, we should see the rivalry heat up. The Lakers have been playing well and are 8-2 in their last 10 games. They are 11-4 at home. They will also be looking to avenge their earlier loss to the Celtics at the Garden. Lakers fans are hyped up for this matchup and were chanting "We want Boston" at the end of the Utah game. Ironically, both teams are coming off a win over the Jazz.

This game is about more than basketball. It is about history. Phil Jackson tied Red Auerbach for most victories with the Lakers' win over Utah and the next victory will put him above Red in the standings. We know that it will happen, but it should not happen against the Celtics. Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett are all aware of history and this should be on their minds in this game. If any game is a must win, it is this one.

With the Lakers on a roll and looking for revenge along with the fact that the Celtics are playing in back to back games and the 4th game in 5 nights on the road, it is going to be a tough game, but the Celtics need to find a way to win it.  The Celtics are 3-0 on their current road trip but if the Celtics don't beat the Lakers, there will still be questions. 

More After the Jump

Probable Starting Matchups
PG    Rajon Rondo vs Derek Fisher
SG    Ray Allen vs Kobe Bryant
SF    Paul Pierce vs Trevor Ariza
PF    Kevin Garnett vs Lamar Odom
C      Kendrick Perkins vs Andrew Bynum
Key Matchups
[image] Vs [image]
Ray Allen PPG 19 | APG 3.2 | 3P% .373
Kobe Bryant PPG 27.2 | APG 4.9 | 3P% .329
While hopefully Ray Allen will find his shooting touch and will offset Kobe's scoring, I expect to see Pierce and Posey on Kobe on defense and a double team whenever possible.
[image] Vs [image]
Kevin Garnett PPG 18.9 | RPG 10.5 | BPG 1.5
Lamar Odom PPG 14 | RPG 8.9 | BPG 0.5
KG vs Odom should be a good matchup with a lot of physical play in the post. KG totally dominated this matchup in their first matchup and should do so again.

Keys to the Game
Stop Kobe Kobe can single handedly beat a team and so Doc needs to do whatever it takes to stop him and take him out of his game. Pierce should see some time guarding him as should Posey and we should see double teams coming at him whenever he touches the ball.

Defense The Celtics have been winning with their defense but have had lapses at times. The Celtics can't afford to have defensive lapses against the Lakers or they will capitalize on them. For the Celtics to be an elite team, they have to play defense for 48 minutes every game. They must defend Kobe and they have to defend in the paint to prevent the passes inside to Bynum for dunks and alley oops.
Keep their Composure The Lakers have been playing great defense and the Celtics have allowed themselves to get rattled when a team throws tough defenses at them. They will need to keep their composure and not get rattled when the Lakers turn up the heat on defense.

Energy The Celtics are playing in their 4th game in 5 nights on the road and in the second of back to back games. They will be understandably tired, but will need to come out with energy and sustain that energy for 4 quarters. If they let up, the Lakers will take advantage and pull away.
X Factor
Fatigue and Defense
The Celtics need to come out with energy and keep it up the entire game.  Fatigue could be a factor and if they aren't hitting jumpers because of tired legs and aren't crashing the boards or hustling for loose balls because they are tired,  the Lakers will take advantage and will win this one.  The Celtics must play defense the entire game.  If they play like they did against the Sonics or Jazz , they may be playing catch up all game and may not have enough at the end to pull it out.  

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