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Celtics and Lakers Clash in Heavyweight Showdown

Boston Celtics (29-15) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (36-11)
Sunday, January 31, 2010
TV: ABC; Radio: WEEI
Venue: TD Garden
Despite the Celtics' recent struggles, there's always something special about a matchup with the Los Angeles Lakers, especially considering the resurgence of both teams the past three seasons. While this is still a regular season game for both teams, the matchup is something of a separate entity in itself, independent of any regular season implications that might stand in the aftermath.
While the Lakers might be cruising into Boston for the seventh game of their current eight-game road trip, and the Celtics have dropped their last two games to two of the NBA's top teams, details like those become mute when the ball gets thrown up today. It's as if the regular season, for two and a half hours, gets put on pause.
The details of this rivalry are well known and need not be repeated here. But the fact that this rivalry has transcended time pays homage to both its importance and its meaning. Is it just a regular season game? Sure. But it won't feel like a regular season game, between the mix of All-Stars, current and past, the national television stations and the championship aura that one would hope still flows through the past two NBA title holders.
So gear up, for it both is and is not just a regular season game today. It's a reminder of where each team has been, and where each team hopes to once again reach. It's Celtics - Lakers. What more need be said?

Projected Starters:

Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins

Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum

Health Check: For the Celtics, guards Marquis Daniels (thumb) and J.R. Giddens (knee) are out.

The Lakers are healthy.

Keep It In Mind: In nine of the Lakers' 11 losses this season, Kobe Bryant has shot less than 50 percent from the field.

Who's Hot: For the Celtics, Paul Pierce torched the Hawks on Friday with a game-high 35 points.

For the Lakers, Ron Artest scored 18 points on 7-13 shooting against the Sixers on Friday.

Who's Not: For the Celtics, Rasheed Wallace shot just 2-8 from the field and 1-5 from three-point nation against the Hawks on Friday, scoring just six points.

For the Lakers, Andrew Bynum took just six shot attempts in 25 minutes against Philadelphia, scoring just six points.

Key Matchup: Paul Pierce vs. Kobe Bryant (They will guard each other at times)

Honorable Mention: Paul Pierce vs. Ron Artest, Kevin Garnett vs. Pau Gasol and Kendrick Perkins vs. Andrew Bynum

Skinny: The Lakers own the Western Conference's best record for a reason. The Celtics will be challenged in all facets of the game today, but they have to be especially assertive on the defensive end (the Lakers are averaging 103.87 points per game as a team this season) and on the glass (the Lakers are second in the league with a 45.04 rebounds per game average). The C's also need to value the ball today, as the Lakers commit the sixth fewest turnovers per game in the league (13.12), while forcing their opponents into nearly 15 per game.

It will be a dogfight, but it should make for a great afternoon of basketball. Allow me to be the first to say: Let's Go Celtics.

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