The Celtics begin a 3 game home stand with a visit from their storied rival, the Los Angeles Lakers, who are beginning a 4 game road trip. The Lakers have won their last two games while the Celtics are looking for their 10th straight win. The Celtics are 3-1 at home with their only home loss to the Bucks on the second night of the season. The Lakers are 1-2 on the road with their only road win coming against the 4-7 Phoenix Suns.
The Celtics and Lakers will meet once again at the Staples Center in LA on January 23. The Celtics have chosen to wear their iconic green jerseys at home for the first time this season for this game. The Celtics are 6-1 in the green jerseys this season. The Lakers will need to choose a contrasting uniform to wear.
Including the years in Minneapolis, the Celtics and Lakers have met a total of 286 times. The Celtics have won 158 of those games while the Lakers have won 128. The Celtics have won 80 of the Games in Boston while the Lakers have won just 49. The Celtics swept the series 2-0 last season.
Kentavious Caldwell Pope left the Lakers last game with a hip strain but he is listed as probable for this game. Andrew Bogut is listed as questionable with back tightness. Larry Nance, Jr is out with a hand injury. For the Celtics, Gordon Hayward is out with an ankle injury. Al Horford is out with a concussion.
Horford didn't show any symptoms of the concussion until Wednesday morning and will be out until he can pass the protocol. I'm going to guess that Baynes will slip back into the starting lineup at center but Brad Stevens may decide that another lineup may match up better. We should see more of Daniel Theis and Semi Ojeleye and maybe even Yabusele until Horford can come back.
Celtics Probable Starters
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out
Al Horford (concussion) out
Two Way Players
Lakers Probable Starters
Kentavious Caldwell Pope (hip) probable
Andrew Bogut (back) questionable
Larry Nance, Jr (hand) out
Two Way Players
Kyrie Irving vs Lonzo Ball
ESPN is marketing this game as Lonzo Wednesday and hopefully that will give Kyrie extra motivation. Although he is far from being the best rookie in this class, he has received the majority of the media attention. Ball is averaging 8.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 6.9 assists. They are decent numbers, but it is his shooting that makes one question him. He is shooting 29.9% from the field, 23.4% on 3 pointers, and 53.8% from the line. Kyrie needs to show him who is boss in this game and shut down the passing lanes and make him have to shoot the ball.
Jayson Tatum vs Kyle Kuzma
Most people feel that Kuzma is the better rookie on the Lakers, in spite of the fact that he was drafted 25 spots after Ball. Kuzma is averaging 15.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.4 assists. He is shooting 56.3% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. Jayson needs to play good defense on him and show him who the real best rookie in the game is.
Aron Baynes vs Brook Lopez
Lopez is averaging 16.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.1 assists. He is shooting 45.7% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc. He has been on a tear and over his last 3 games he has averaged 27.3 points per game. Brook has had big games against the Celtics when he was with the Nets and the Celtics will definitely miss Al Horford, who is the Celtics' best defender, in this matchup.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games. The Celtics are first in the league with a defensive rating of 95.9. They let their defense slip against the Hawks, allowing 107 points. The Lakers aren't terrible defensively as they are 7th with a defensive rating of 101.2. Hopefully the Celtics have figured out what went wrong against the Hawks and tighten their defense back up.
Rebound - The Celtics slacked off somewhat in their rebounding against the Hawks. They need to crash the boards and keep the Lakers from getting second chance points and fast breaks. The Celtics are 5th with 47.4 rebounds per game while the Lakers are 11th with 46.1 rebounds per game. The Celtics need to put out extra effort to beat the Lakers to rebounds.
Focus - The Celtics seemed to lose focus against the Hawks perhaps because they underestimated them. The Celtics need to keep their focus on playing their game and not underestimate the Lakers. They need to get their focus back on defense to get stops and not allow the Lakers to score at will. They need to focus on moving the ball and playing as a team and not lapse into hero ball. The first game home after a road trip is always tough and so the Celtics need to keep their focus to get the win.
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. They have to be the team that wants it more. They allowed the Hawks to be the more aggressive team for much of the game and just barely beat them. They need to come out strong from the start and not let up.
Home Court - The Celtics are home with the Garden crowd behind them. They should get a lift from the crowd and from being back home after the road trip. Hopefully the Garden faithful will be loud and rattle the young Lakers a bit.
Celtic Pride - "Beat LA" is one of the most iconic chants in the league. This is a storied rivalry and no matter the circumstances, the Celtics always want to beat the Lakers. It's a matter of pride and the Celtics need to get the job done and "Beat LA" in this game. Although none of these players were involved in this rivalry over the years, this is a good time to renew the rivalry with talented young players on both teams.
Al's Absence - Al Horford has been a key contributor to the Celtics' success. Other players will need to step up to make up for Al's contributions on both ends of the court. He is averaging 14.6 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 4.7 assists and he has been the Celtics best defender. For the Celtics to win, they will need to have the next man up mentality.