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Celtics host Lakers in Kobe's last game in Boston

Celtics vs Lakers rivalry takes a new turn as Kobe Bryant comes to Boston for his final game at the Garden.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports


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Los Angeles Lakers (5-27) at Boston Celtics (18-13)
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
7:30 PM ET
Regular Season Game #32, Home Game #17
TV: NBA-TV, CSNNE, TWC Sportsnet
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 710 AM ESPN
TD Garden

Referees: Mike Callahan, Brent Barnaky, Haywoode Workman

Although this matchup has lost some of the luster of this rivalry, there is still something special about a game between these two storied franchises. Both teams have begun rebuilds since their last Finals meeting, with the Celtics ahead of the Lakers. This game takes on added significance with Kobe Bryant's retirement announcement.

The Celtics are 6-4 in their last 10 games and 9-7 at home. The Lakers are 2-8 in their last 10 games and 3-18 on the road. The Lakers have lost their last 4 games and are in last place in the West. The Celtics are on a 4 game win streak and are looking for their first 5 game win streak of the season. They are 8th in the East, in a statistical tie with Orlando and Chicago who are in 6th and 7th. All 3 teams are 3 games behind Cleveland for the top spot in the East.

The Celtics and Lakers tied last season's series with 1 game each. Each team won on their home court. Kobe has been the villain on the Celtics biggest rival for 20 years but with this being his last game in Boston, it's not clear what type of reception he will get in Boston. Even the Celtics players grew up idolizing Kobe but hopefully they will pay their respects and then set out to destroy him.

Former Celtic Brandon Bass will be returning to Boston for the first time since signing with the Lakers in free agency this summer. He was always a team player in Boston but I'm sure that just like every other player facing his former team, he will have a chip on his shoulder and want to beat his former team. And speaking of chips, Isaiah Thomas should have one against Lou Williams who narrowly beat him out for Sixth Man last year.

The Lakers are mostly healthy with no announced injuries. The Celtics are finally almost at full strength as well with Marcus Smart returning to the rotation in Monday's game against the Knicks. Although he played well in that first game back, he will probably still come off the bench in this one. David Lee is listed as a game time decision with back spasms.


Probable Starters
Point Guard: Isaiah Thomas ---------------- Shooting Guard: Avery Bradley



Center: Jared Sullinger


Small Forward: Jae Crowder ------------------ Power Forward: Amir Johnson


Celtics Reserves

Evan Turner
Jonas Jerebko
Terry Rozier
James Young
Jordan Mickey
Tyler Zeller
David Lee
RJ Hunter
Kelly Olynyk
Marcus Smart

Injuries

David Lee (back) game time decision

Head Coach
Brad Stevens



Probable Starters
Point Guard: Jordan Clarkson-------------------- Shooting Guard: Lou Williams



Center: Roy Hibbert


Small Forward: Kobe Bryant -------------------- Power Forward: Larry Nance, Jr


Lakers Reserves

Brandon Bass
Tarik Black
Anthony Brown
Marcelo Huertas
Ryan Kelly
Julius Randle
D'Angelo Russell
Robert Sacre
Metta World Peace
Nick Young

Injuries
None

Head Coach
Byron Scott



Key Matchups
vs
Jae Crowder vs Kobe Bryant
Kobe's retirement announcement seems to have energized him as he is averaging 21 points in the 8 games after he announced that he was retiring. He has been a part of the Celtics rivalry for 20 years and I'm sure that beating the Celtics in his final game at the Garden is high on his bucket list. Jae is one of the best wing defenders in the league and it will be his job to keep Kobe from having a career game in this one.

vs
Avery Bradley vs Lou Williams
Williams is averaging 13.1 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists. He is capable of getting hot in any given game and can hit from beyond the arc if left open. Avery should be able to keep him from going off in this game.

Honorable Mention

Marcus Smart vs D'Angelo Russell
Assuming that Smart will once again come off the bench, it will be his job to guard the Lakers talented rookie who is averaging 11.8 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game off the bench.

Keys to the Game
Focus - With the circus that is Kobe's last game in Boston, the Celtics will need to keep their focus and remember that beating the Lakers is their top priority, not honoring Kobe. If they stay focused and play as they have over their last 4 games, they should win this one easily.

Defense
- The Lakers are last in the league in points allowed with 107.5 per game. The Celtics are 8th best, allowing 98.7 points per game. When the Celtics play that kind of defense, they are tough to beat. They need to play tough team defense in this one and not allow the Lakers' record or Kobe's farewell to get them to let up. Defense wins games.

Move the Ball and Play as a Team
- The Celtics are 5th in the league with 24.1 assists per game. When they play as a team and make the extra pass to find the open man, they play very well. In their 3 most recent losses they averaged 18 assists per game. It's not a coincidence that they have high assist numbers in their wins and low assist numbers in their losses.

Be Aggressive - The Celtics must be the more aggressive team. They have to be aggressive in going to the basket, in diving for loose balls, and on defense. They have to aggressively crash the boards and just play harder. They have to be the team that wants it more.

X-Factors
Home Court - The Celtics are home with the Garden crowd behind them. They should get a lift from the crowd and be motivated to bring the Celtics another win in this storied rivalry. The Celtics are 155-127 all time vs the Lakers and 79-48 at home. This Celtics team needs to protect their home court and add to both of those totals.

Kobe Circus - There will be fanfare and a lot of attention paid to Kobe Bryant's final game in the Garden. He said that he brought his family with him because they have never been to Boston and he wants them to experience the "Green." The Celtics must stay focused and not let the hoopla surrounding Kobe to affect their game.

Officiating - Officiating is a factor in every single game played in the NBA. Every crew has their own biases and their own way of officiating and many times it affects the way the game is played. Kobe made the comment in an interview that he didn't know how the Lakers won game 7 of the 2010 Finals. It's very simple. After the referees allowed both teams to play in the first 3 quarters with the Lakers shooting 16 free throws to 11 for the Celtics, they called the 4th quarter completely one sided with the Lakers shooting 21 free throws to the Celtics 6. Hopefully they will call this one fairly and let them play.

Official Report
Mike Callahan

A veteran of 25 NBA seasons, Mike Callahan has officiated 1,483 regular season, 156 Playoff and 16 NBA Finals games.He was a member of the crews that officiated the 2007 NBA All-Star Game, 1994 Mexico Challenge and the 1996 Schick Rookie Game. Prior to joining the NBA, Callahan spent three years officiating in the CBA, including the 1989 and 1990 CBA Finals. A member of the Cardinal O’Hara High School basketball team for four years, Callahan also coached the freshman basketball team after graduating.

Callahan is one of 4 refs to come out of Cardinal O'Hara High School in Pennsylvania. The other 3 are Joey Crawford, Ed Malloy and Tim Donaghy. Callahan was one of the referees mentioned in an incident in Tim Donaghy's book. He and other refs would regularly wager with their fellow refs over things like who would call the first foul, who could give out the first tech, etc. Makes you wonder what game they might be playing tonight.

Callahan called game 1 of the Cleveland series in last season's playoffs. The refs were terrible in that game. Even the national TV announcers continually pointed out bad calls and how LeBron got away with so much They also mentioned that if LeBron was called for even half of his infractions the game would have changed. Cleveland shot 33 free throws to 22 for the Celtics. He called the second game this season against the Raptors and it was officiated ok as was the win over the Nets.

As with most refs, Callahan can be good or he can be very, very bad. He usually lets the teams play and isn't a tyrant with the whistle but still makes some head scratching calls from time to time. He averages 43.2 foul calls per game and 47.3% of those calls are on the home team. The Celtics are 2-1 this season and 5-5 over the last 10 games with Callahan. The Lakers are 0-2 this season and 3-7 over their last 10 games with Callahan. His home W/L record this season is 12-9.

Brent Barnaky
Brent Barnaky enters his sixth NBA season having officiated 271 NBA games. Barnaky came to the NBA with 10 years of collegiate officiating experience in the Southeastern Conference, Big East, Conference USA and other college conferences as well. He completed three years of postseason officiating in the NIT (2008-2010). He officiated the 2008, 2009 and 2010 NBA D-League Playoffs, and the 2009 and 2010 NBA D-League Finals.

As with many of the refs, Barnaky can be good or very bad. The Celtics have had a couple of memorable games with Barnaky in the past. In a loss to the Pistons three seasons ago that Tommy Heinsohn called the worst officiated game all season, Rondo was ejected and the Pistons shot 46 free throws to 15 for the Celtics. In a game vs the Bucks last season, he allowed the Bucks to mug the Celtics all game and called ticky tack fouls on the Celtics but when the Celtics tried to commit an intentional foul to stop the clock, they wouldn't call it. He called the win at home vs the Wizards this season and the game was called evenly. He also called the game vs Charlotte this season and the officiating was very good. They let both teams play and called it evenly. The Celtics are 2-0 this season and 6-4 in their last 10 games with Barnaky while the Lakers are also 0-3 this season and 3-7 in their last 10. His home W/L record is 12-14.

Haywoode Workman
Haywoode Workman has officiated 378 regular season games in his first seven NBA seasons. A second round draft pick by the Atlanta Hawks in 1989, he played professionally for eight seasons in the NBA and overseas betweeen 1989 to 2000.

Workman spent four seasons officiating in the NBA Development League and also officiated in the CBA before joining the NBA. Workman joins Bernie Fryer and Leon Wood on the short list of NBA players who have made the transition to officiating.

Workman was an All-State quarterback in North Carolina in 1983 and played in the NC/SC Shrine Bowl. He played one year of football and basketball for the all time winnigest HBCU coach, the late Clearence "Big House" Gaines, at Winston-Salem State University. He was inducted into the Oral Roberts University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003.

The Celtics are 4-6 over the last 10 games with Workman. There hasn't been a lot of controversy over his officiating. Unlike some of the NBA officials, he keeps a fairly low profile. He has not been noticeable one way or the other in most of his games with the Celtics. The Lakers are 0-1 this season and 2-8 in their last 10 with Workman. His home W/L record is 11-8 this season.