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Celtics at Lakers in Much Awaited Finals Rematch

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Boston Celtics (27-2) at Lakers (23-5)
December 25
5:00 PM ET
Game #30, Road Game #12
TV: ABC
Staples Center

Game Thread l Chat

Lakers Blogs With Malice l Forum Blue and Gold l Respect Kobe

The long awaited rematch between the Lakers and the Celtics is finally here. Before these this game even begins, Phil Jackson has already started making excused for his team since they just got back from a 4 game road trip and will be tired and won't have time to prepare for the Celtics. The Celtics for their part are saying that this is just another game and they are preparing for it just like any other game. No excuses from the Celtics who also had to travel and are playing on the road on Christmas day.

Pierce always looks forward to these games against the Lakers and we can expect a big game out of him in front of his family and friends. Last season, the Celtics swept the series in the regular season and played without Rondo in the game out in LA. Both teams have their starting lineups intact and both may be missing one bench player so there are no excuses either way because of player injuries.

With the win against the Knicks Phil Jackson passed Red Auerbach for the most games coached. With the win in New Orleans he moved within 1 of getting 1000 wins. If he reaches that milestone in the next 12 games, he would pass Pat Riley as the fastest to reach 1000 wins. Hopefully the Celtics will deprive him of his milestone one more game.

There were questions as to whether the Hawks and Celtics is a rivalry and whether the Knicks and Celtics is a rivalry but there is no question whatsoever that the Celtics and Lakers are a rivalry and Celtics and Lakers fans all over the world have had this game circled since the schedule came out. The Celtics will want to send a message to the Lakers and the Lakers definitely want some payback. This should be a very intense game.

The Lakers have one of the most explosive offenses in the league while the Celtics have one of the stingiest defenses in the league. If the Celtics can play their game, their defense should win out over the Lakers' offense but too often in the playoffs, the Celtics failed to play their game and bring their defense on the road. Then again, this is a more focused Celtics team than the one that played in the Finals. We know one thing. The Lakers would desperately love to end the Celtics streak and the Celtics had better be ready for a fight.

Probable Starting Matchups
vs
Rajon Rondo PPG 11.3 RPG 5.00 APG 7.5 EFF + 19.04
Derek Fisher PPG 11.2 RPG 2.60 APG 3.3 EFF + 12.04

vs
Ray Allen PPG 18.8 RPG 3.50 APG 2.6 EFF + 17.14
Kobe Bryant PPG 25.8 RPG 5.40 APG 4.2 EFF + 22.92

vs
Paul Pierce PPG 18.5 RPG 5.80 APG 3.8 EFF + 17.79
Luke Walton PPG 2.9 RPG 1.40 APG 1.5 EFF + 3.50

vs
Kevin Garnett PPG 16.3 RPG 9.10 APG 2.8 EFF + 22.19
Pau Gasol PPG 17.5 RPG 9.30 APG 3.4 EFF + 23.24

vs
Kendrick Perkins PPG 9.1 RPG 8.50 APG 1.3 EFF + 14.79
Andrew Bynum PPG 12.3 RPG 8.60 APG 1.8 EFF + 17.92

Key Matchups:
Kevin Garnett vs Pau Gasol
Kendrick Perkins vs Andrew Bynum
The Lakers are #1 in the league in points in the paint and the Celtics are #4. It will be up to KG and Perk to protect the paint and keep the Lakers from getting easy baskets. These will be interesting matchups since Bynum didn't play in the Finals and all we heard was that if Bynum had played it would have been a different series. Perk has played well against Bynum in the past and KG matches up better with Gasol than Perk does. Defense in the paint is the key to these matchups. The Lakers have been called soft by their media and fans and they will want to disprove this as they go up against one of the toughest frontcourts in the league.

Honorable Mention
Ray Allen vs Kobe Bryant
Although we can expect to see Pierce on Kobe some of the time, it goes without saying that slowing Kobe is one of the keys to stopping the Lakers. It will fall on Ray and sometimes Pierce to get that job done.

Keys to the Game
Contain Kobe
Defense - Both in the Paint and on the Perimeter
Limit Turnovers
Bench Contributions
Keep their Focus

X-Factors
Statement vs Revenge
The Celtics will be looking to make a statement vs the Lakers while the Lakers will be looking to avenge their Finals' losse to the Celtics. It is a toss up as to which team wants it more.

Home vs Road
The Celtics struggled on the road in the playoffs as they seemed to lose their focus, especially on the defensive end away from the Garden. Will the Celtics be able to maintain that focus on the road on this trip?