Boston Celtics (39-22) at Los Angeles Lakers (19-42)
Regular Season Game #62 Road Game #32
Friday, March 3, 2017
10:30 PM ET
TV: CSNNE, Spectrum Sportsnet, NBA-LP 7636(DTV)/751(xfinity)
Radio: 98.5 Sports Hub, 710 AM ESPN
Referees: Ken Mauer, Derrick Collins, Scott Twardoski
The Celtics begin a 5 game Western road trip with a stop in LA to take on the Lakers for the 358th time since the Celtics first faced off against the Minneapolis Lakers on November 9, 1948. This is the 2nd and final game between these two storied franchises this season. The Celtics won the first meeting in Boston 113-107. Lou Williams, who was moved at the trade deadline, led the Lakers with 21 points. Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 38 points, with 17 coming in the 4th quarter.
The Celtics have won 6 of their last 10 games and are coming off one of the biggest wins of the season against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Lakers have won just 2 of their last 10 games and have lost their last 5 games. The Celtics are 18-13 on the road while the Lakers are 12-16 at home.
The Lakers, though have a very good reason to want to lose this game. If their draft pick falls out of the top 3, it goes to the Philadelphia 76ers, who are working on a top pick of their own. Because of the bad blood and storied rivalry between the two franchises, the Lakers aren't likely to lie down and let the Celtics win in a blow out. But, I don't see them wanting to win all that much either.
If the Celtics want to compete for the top seeds in the East, they have to win games like this one against the teams that they should beat. Unfortunately, the Celtics have a history of playing down to teams they should beat (See Kings game at the start of their last western road trip). Hopefully the team remembers as well and don't make the same mistake in this game. Gerald Green is a game time decision with a heel injury for the Celtics. Thomas Robinson is listed as a game time decision for the lakers with flu like symptoms.
After their big win over the Cavs, the Celtics have moved to within 3 games of the Cavs in first place. The red hot Wizards beat the Warriors and the next night beat the Raptors to move to within 2 games of the Celtics. The Raptors slipped back to 3 games behind the Celtics. The Hawks are 4.5 games behind the Celtics.
Toronto is completing a home and home set against the Wizards and is playing at Washington on Friday. Cleveland is playing at Atlanta.
Point Guard: Isaiah Thomas ---------------- Shooting Guard: Avery Bradley
Center: Amir Johnson
Small Forward: Jae Crowder ------------------ Power Forward: Al Horford
Gerald Green (heel) game time decision
Point Guard: D'Angelo Russell -------------------- Shooting Guard: Nick Young
Center: Tarik Black
Small Forward: Brandon Ingram -------------------- Power Forward: Julius Randle
Metta World Peace
Larry Nance, Jr
Isaiah Thomas vs D'Angelo Russell
Russell is averaging 14.8 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 4.8 assists a game. After struggling in a couple of games, Isaiah snapped back against the Cavaliers and should have a big game in this one.
Avery Bradley vs Nick Young
Young is averaging 13.5 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists. He is 10th in the league in 3 pointers made and is shooting 40.7% from beyond the arc. Even through he is still on a minutes restriction, it will be good to have Avery's defense back for this game as he missed the last meeting between these two teams.
Bench vs Bench
The Celtics reserves will have to play well to offset the Lakers' reserves, who lead the league in bench scoring with 50.1 points off the bench per game.
Keys to the Game
Focus - The Celtics need to keep their focus on playing their game and not underestimate the Lakers. Playing the first game on a road trip is always tricky. On their last road trip out West, the Celtics lost to a short handed Kings team and the Celtics need to stay focused so they don't let the distractions of playing on the road keep them from playing their best.
Defense - The Lakers are 29th in the league with a defensive rating of 110.4. The Celtics are 18th with a defensive rating of 106.0. The Celtics got a boost with the return of first team all defense Avery Bradley. The Celtics have to play tough in your face defense if the want to get a win. 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. Isaiah especially has to kick it out to the open man when teams try to double him.
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. The only way the Lakers can beat the Celtics is if the Celtics don't bring their best effort and expect to coast to a win.
Road Trip - The Celtics are beginning a 5 game road trip and the first game is always tough with the time change and jet lag and all that. The Celtics need to stay focused and overcome all the distractions that playing on the West coast, against a lottery team, and in a hostile arena can bring.
Trap Game - The Celtics stood pat at the trade deadline, but the Lakers actually got a bit worse when they traded Lou Williams. They are next to the last in the West and the Celtics might be tempted to underestimate them but that would be a mistake. The Celtics have to come out and play as though they are playing the Warriors and not let the Lakers gain any confidence.
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 once 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. Hopefully they will call this one fairly and let them play.