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Celtics Look to Avenge Earlier Loss to Lakers

(33-18) at (42-13)
Boston Celtics (33-18) at Lakers (42-13)
February 17
10:30 PM ET
Game #52, Road Game #28
Staples Center

Referees: Bob Delaney, Rodney Mott, LeRoy Richardson
Game Thread l Chat

There are questions all over the place surrounding this game. The trade deadline has to have been a distraction for both teams. Losing Eddie House who has been the Celtics offense in the clutch of late has to affect the Celtics. No matter what Nate Robinson can do for the team, he won't know any of the plays in time to be effective in this game should he be able to play. Another question is whether or not Kobe will play. Lakers are saying that he will be a game time decision. Personally I can't see him not playing in this game if it is in any way possible. However, reports are that his ankle injury was fairly serious and they won't hurry him back if he isn't ready.

Other questions surround the Celtics starting 5. KG has definitely looked much less than 100%. He has been a step slow on defense and also has not had any life which has resulted in missed alley-oops and his shots being blocked. Pierce has looked decent, but still isn't back to 100% either. Ray Allen has been in a slump and in spite of all the talk, it appears that Ray is still a Celtic at least for the rest of this season. Perk has been struggling since KG returned which could be a result of having to over cover on defense because of KG's lack of lateral movement as well as trying to find his role again now that KG is back. Rondo is the only player in the starting 5 who has been playing well. As a result of all of these factors, the Celtics have been getting off to slow starts and giving up 3rd quarter leads. Celtics fans are hoping that this will be the game where the team finally can put it all together again.
The Celtics still have to be stinging from Kobe's last second shot that beat them in the Garden. If there is one game this season that the Celtics should be motivated for, it is this one. Let's hope that they have put the trade rumors and uncertainty behind them and bring their A game in this one. Anything less will result in yet another loss whether or not Kobe plays.

Probable Starting Matchups
Rajon Rondo 14.1 PPG 9.6 APG 2.5 SPG
Derek Fisher 7.3 PPG 2.5 APG 1.1 SPG

Ray Allen 16.0 PPG 2.7 APG .333 3P%
Kobe Bryant 28.0 PPG 4.64 APG .327 3P%
(or Shannon Brown 8.2 PPG 1.3 APG .7 SPG)

Paul Pierce 18.6 PPG 4.7 RPG 3.3 APG
Ron Artest 11.7 PPG 4.4 RPG 3.2 APG

Kevin Garnett 14.2 PPG 7.4 RPG .8 BPG
Pau Gasol 17.1 PPG 11.2 RPG 1.8 BPG

Kendrick Perkins 11.1 PPG 8.40 RPG 1.8 BPG
Andrew Bynum 15.2 PPG 8.2 RPG 1.5 BPG

Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs Derek Fisher
The Lakers have been shopping Fisher because of his inability to stop younger PG's. Rondo must be aggressive in this game and exploit that weakness. On the other side of it, Fisher is capable of hitting big shots and Rondo must play tough defense to keep Fisher from getting hot.

Kendrick Perkins vs Andrew Bynum
Perk and Bynum are both centers who love to bang in the paint. For the Lakers, Bynum gives them a little muscle inside to help counteract their soft image. Perk has been struggling recently since KG's return and the Celtics will need a strong game defensively from him in order to keep the Lakers out of the paint.

Kevin Garnett vs Pau Gasol
There is no denying that KG hasn't looked quite himself since coming back from the injury. His shot was blocked several times against the Kings and he has also lost a step defensively. Gasol is playing very well and the Celtics need the tough defensive KG back. KG has got to bring his A game on defense in this one.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Both in the Paint and on the Perimeter The Celtics must get their defensive focus and trust back and play the team defense that has made them so tough to beat in the past. Recently we have seen this defense in spurts, but the Celtics must get back to playing solid defense for 48 minutes.

Rebound - Rebounding is effort and desire and the Celtics have been showing neither as they have repeatedly allowed teams to out rebound them. The Celtics need to put out more effort and crash the boards to prevent the Lakers from getting second chance points and fast breaks off the rebounds.

Keep their Focus The Celtics have to come out strong and stay focused for 48 minutes. They can't play in spurts and expect to win against the top teams. The Starters must especially get their cohesion and focus back.

Can the Celtics regain their focus and get back to playing as a championship caliber team?

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