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The Celtics begin their 4 game Western road trip with a stop in LA to take on the LA Lakers.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Boston Celtics Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics begin their 4 game Western road trip with a stop at the Staples Center to renew one of the most storied rivalries in NBA history. While neither team is where they once were when the rivalry was at its peak, whenever these two teams meet there is always an intense desire to beat each other. Beat LA is one of the most iconic chants in NBA history and it is on the minds of every Celtics fan whenever these two teams meet.

This is the 362nd meeting between these two teams since they first met in 1948. This includes a record 12 NBA Finals meetings. The Celtics lead all time with 202 wins vs 159 losses. The Celtics won the season series last year 2-0. The Lakers have lost just three season series to the Celtics since the 1999-2000 season (2001-02, 2007-08, 2016-17). ... The Lakers are 11-7 all-time against the Celtics at Staples Center in the regular season. The Lakers are 3-9 in NBA Finals series against Boston, with the Celtics taking the first eight before Los Angeles won three of the last four (1985, 1987 and 2010).

The Celtics are still #1 in the Eastern Conference but after 3 straight losses, they lead the Raptors by just 2 games. The Lakers, on the other hand, are 11th in the West, 6.5 games out of playoff contention. The Celtics have considerable interest in the Lakers pick, which, after a run of recent good play, is the 7th worst. The Celtics will get their pick if it is between 2 and 5. A win in this game could improve their chances at getting that pick along with their own position in the playoff seeding.

This is the second and final meeting between these two teams this season. The Celtics won the first meeting 107-96 in Boston. The Celtics come into this game having lost their last 3 games. They are 16-5 on the road and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 12-3 against the West. The Lakers are coming off a win over the Knicks and have won their last 2 games. They are 6-4 in their last 10 games and 9-8 vs the East.

Hopefully the Celtics are getting past the flu that was going around the locker room. As of now, only Gordon Hayward is listed out with the ankle injury. The Lakers first round pick Lonzo Ball is out with a knee injury. Kentavious Caldwell Pope is a game time decision with an Achilles injury. Brandon Ingram is probable to return from an ankle injury. The Lakers top rookie, Kyle Kuzma played just 10 minutes in Sunday’s game before leaving with a hand injury. He is questionable for this game.

Probable Celtics Starters

Celtics Reserves
Shane Larkin
Abdel Nader
Semi Ojeleye
Daniel Theis
Guerschon Yabusele
Terry Rozier
Marcus Smart
Marcus Morris
Jarell Eddie

Injuries
Gordon Hayward (ankle) out

Two Way Players
Kadeem Allen
Jabari Bird

Head Coach
Brad Stevens

Probable Lakers Starters

Lakers Reserves
Corey Brewer
Thomas Bryant
Jordan Clarkson
Luol Deng
Nigel Hayes
Kyle Kuzma
Larry Nance Jr
Ivica Zubac

Injuries
Kentavious Caldwell Pope (Achilles) probable
Lonzo Ball (knee) out
Brandon Ingram (ankle) probable
Kyle Kuzma (hand) questionable

Two Way Players
Gary Payton II
Alex Caruso

Head Coach
Luke Walton

Key Matchups

Jason Tatum vs Brandon
Ingram Ingram is playing very well for the Lakers, averaging 15.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. In the first game between these two teams, he led the Lakers with 18 points. Jason Tatum may have hit the rookie wall, struggling in games lately. Hopefully Tatum can get back on track in tis one on both ends of the court.

Al Horford vs Julius Randle
Randle is averaging 13.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game this season for the Lakers. Horford should be able to hold his own and slow down Randle as well as contributing on the offensive end for the Celtics.

Honorable Mention
Aron Baynes vs Brook Lopez
Lopez is averaging 11.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.6 assists. I’m hoping that Brad goes back to Baynes starting at center because I think the team plays much better with him in the starting lineup and with Morris helping the bench. Lopez has fallen off some since he left the Nets but is still capable of putting up big numbers if not defended well.

Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games. The Celtics are first in the league with a defensive rating of 99.7. They have been slipping a bit on defense in recent games but still are capable of the lock down defense that got them the top defensive raging in the league. The Lakers aren’t terrible defensively as they are 10th with a defensive rating of 104.7. Hopefully the Celtics have figured out what has been wrong over the past 3 games tighten their defense to lock up this Lakers team.

Rebound - The Celtics are averaging 44.4 rebounds per game while the Lakers are averaging 46.2 rebounds per game. They need to crash the boards and keep the Lakers from getting second chance points and fast breaks. The Celtics need to put out extra effort to beat the Lakers to rebounds.

Focus - The Celtics he 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 like they allowed the Magic to do. They need to focus on moving the ball and playing as a team and not lapse into hero ball.

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 Magic, Sixers and Pelicans all to be the more aggressive team for much of the past 3 games. They need to come out and play aggressively for 48 minutes with no let up if they want to win this one.

X-Factors
On the Road Again - The Celtics lost their last 3 games at home and hopefully a trip out West will be good for the slumping team. The Celtics need to come into the game focused, especially the young guys who sometimes struggle on the road. They need to block out the distractions of playing in a hostile arena and focus on playing the right way.

Celtic Pride - “Beat LA” is one of the most iconic chants for one of the oldest rivalries 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.

Injuries or Not - The Celtics appear to be getting back to health after missing several players with “flu-like symptoms” for the past few games. Kyrie seems to be over his shoulder problems so hopefully the Celtics come into this game healthy. Lonzo Ball is out for the Lakers and that may be good or bad for them. If Caldwell-Pope and Kuzma are out, it could be a problem for the Lakers. Also if Ingram isn’t 100% it could slow them down.