Los Angeles Lakers (17-35) at Boston Celtics (31-18)
Friday, February 3, 2017
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #50, Home Game #26
TV: ESPN, CSNNE, Spectrum Sportsnet
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 710 AM ESPN
Referees: Mike Callahan, JT Orr, Scott Wall
Historical rivals clash as the Celtics host the Los Angeles Lakers for the first of 2 games this season and the first meeting in the Post-Kobe era. Last season the series was tied 1-1 with each team winning on the opponent's court. Both franchises come into this game tied with 3,252 wins so the winner of this game will take the lead as the franchise with the most all time wins.
The Celtics have won their last 5 games and 7 of their last 10 games. The Lakers have lost 2 straight games and ave won just 2 of their last 10 games. The Celtics are 17-8 at home while the Lakers are 5-22 on the road. The Celtics are in 2nd place in the East, 1.5 games ahead of the Raptors, who are playing in Orlando on Friday.
For the second game in a row, the Celtics are facing an opponent who played the night before and had to travel after the game. The Lakers lost to the Wizards on Thursday night while the Celtics were idle. The Lakers are 3-8 on the second night of back to back games. It might be easy for the Celtics to look at this as an easy win, but hopefully they know that teams usually lose when they approach a game with that attitude.
Avery Bradley is reportedly close to a return to the Celtics but is still listed as a game time decision. He practiced on Tuesday and Thursday but Brad Stevens has made it clear that he won't return until he is 100% healthy. Kelly Olynyk missed Wednesday's game with a sore shoulder and is listed as a game time decision for this game.
Julius Randle missed two games as he battle pneumonia. He returned to play just five minutes against the Wizards last night. The Lakers appear to be easing him back into the lineupbut certainly could use his 12.8 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He is clearly one of the Lakers better players and his return could make a Celtics win more difficult.
I've listed the same starters that started the last game but there's a chance that Avery will return to the starting lineup or they could try to ease him back with a limited role off the bench. Also, Brad Stevens has said that Jonas Jerebko may start some games depending on the matchups but I think Amir will remain with the starters for this game.
Point Guard: Isaiah Thomas ---------------- Shooting Guard: Jaylen Brown
Center: Amir Johnson
Small Forward: Jae Crowder ------------------ Power Forward: Al Horford
Avery Bradley (Achilles) game time decision
Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) game time decision
Point Guard: D'Angelo Russell -------------------- Shooting Guard: Nick Young
Center: Timofey Mozgov
Small Forward: Luol Deng -------------------- Power Forward: Tarik Black
Metta World Peace
Larry Nance, Jr
Julius Randle (pneumonia) game time decision
Isaiah Thomas vs D'Angelo Russell
The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Month will face D'Angelo Russell, who will be playing in the Rising Stars game. Russell is averaging 14.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 4.6 assists a game. Isaiah has been on fire over the month of January and hopefully that will carry over into this game.
Marcus Smart vs Lou Williams
Williams is averaging 18.3 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.1assists off the bench. He is capable of getting hot in any given game and can hit from beyond the arc if left open. Marcus will need to keep him from going off in this game.
Bench vs Bench
The Celtics reserves will have to play well to offset the Lakers' reserves, who lead the league in bench scoring. I already mentioned Lou Williamns who is averaging 18.3 points per gameThey also have Jordan Clarkson who is averaging 14.0 points per game and Brandon Ingram who is averaging 7.9 points.
Keys to the Game
Focus - The Celtics need to keep their focus on playing their game and not underestimate the Lakers. Last season, the Celtics lost to the Lakers at the TD Garden because they underestimated them. They have to stay focused and not allow the Lakers to play harder than them.
Defense - The Lakers are last in the league with a defensive rating of 110.3. The Celtics have struggled defensively this season and have a defensive rating of 106.2 (20th). The Celtics defense has been improving somewhat recently and they need to play tough team defense in this one and not allow the Lakers to score at will. Defense wins games.
Move the Ball and Play as a Team - When the Celtics play as a team and make the extra pass to find the open man, they play very well. When they slow the game down and play hero ball, things don't usually go as well. They have to move the ball and play as a team.
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. Against the Raptors, they let the Raptors play harder in the first half and ended up down 18. When they finally started to be aggressive and play harder, they were able to pull the game out. 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 be motivated to bring the Celtics another win in this storied rivalry. The Celtics are 156-128 all time vs the Lakers and 79-49 at home. This Celtics team needs to protect their home court and add to both of those win totals.
Trap Game - The Lakers are playing on the second night of back to back games and had to travel after the game. They are the 3rd worst team in the league. Last season the Celtics underestimated them and lost on their home court. They need to come into this game and play hard from the start to the finish and play as though they are facing the Warriors.
Motivation - As has already been mentioned, both of these teams have 3,252 franchise wins. The team that wins this game will also win bragging rights for the most franchise wins in NBA history. Also, a win in this game would send the Celtics coaches to coach the All Star Game. Brad Stevens has played this down as no big deal but rumors are that the assistant coaches really want to go. That should give the Celtics motivation to come out and play hard and make it happen.
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.