The Celtics continue their Western road trip with a stop in Los Angeles to take on the Lakers. These two teams have the biggest rivalry in league history with 33 titles between them. They have met in the Finals 12 times with the Celtics winning 9 of those and the Lakers winning 3.
The Celtics are 161-130 all time against the Lakers. They are 107-93 all time in Los Anglese. The Celtics are 6-4 in the last 10 games against the Lakers. Last season the series was tied 1-1. The Celtics won the first meeting between them this year 139-107 in Boston on January 20.
The Celtics are 3rd in the East, 1.5 games behind Toronto and 3.5 games ahead of the Heat. They are 16-11 on the road and 9-1 in their last 10 games. They are looking for their 3rd straight win. They are 14-7 against the West. The Lakers are First in the West, 5 games ahead of Denver. They are 19-7 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They have won 4 straight and are 13-6 against the East.
The Lakers see this as a must win game. First, they were embarrassed by the Celtics in their first meeting in Boston. They probably have thought about that loss quite a bit since then. Also, one of the knocks on the Lakers is that they haven’t been able to beat the top contenders. They are 0-2 vs the Clippers, 0-1 vs the Celtics and 0-1 vs the Bucks. The are going to come out playing hard to try to change that perception and avenge their worst loss of the season by winning this game.
Kemba Walker has been ruled out against the Lakers with knee soreness and swelling. The injury isn’t supposed to be serious or keep him out long term, but it will keep him out of this game. Robert Williams is close to a return but is also out for this game. I expect that Marcus Smart will once again start at the point.
For the Lakers, Anthony Davis was hit in the calf on Friday and left the game but he is probable for this game. Talen Horton-Tucker is on assignment with the G-League. For the moment, DeMarcus Cousins is still with the team as he rehabs his torn Achilles, but he is expected to be waived so the Lakers can sign Markieff Morris when he clears waivers.
Probable Celtics Starters
Kemba Walker (knee) out
Robert Williams (hip) out
Two Way Players
Probable Lakers Starters
DeMarcus Cousins (knee) out
Talen Horton-Tucker (G-League) out
Anthony Davis (calf) probable
Two Way Players
Gordon Hayward vs LeBron James
LeBron James is definitely a key matchup and one of the toughest in the league. He is averaging 25.0 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 10.8 assists per game. He is shooting 48.9% from the field and 34.5% from beyond the arc. LeBron is the focal point of their offense and is next to impossible to stop. We will likely see Marcus Smart and maybe Semi Ojeleye along with Hayward trying to slow him down.
Jayson Tatum vs Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis is possibly even harder to match up with than LeBron. He is averaging 26.6 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game. He is shooting 51.9% from the field and 31.6% from three. In the first game between these two teams, the Celtics held Davis to just 9 points and so he will likely be looking to have a big game in this one. He is also a good defender and will try to make it difficult for Tatum to score.
Daniel Theis vs JaVale McGee
Daniel Theis is coming off one of the best games of his career. He will be tasked with keeping JaVale McGee (and Dwight Howard) off the boards and out of the paint. McGee is averaging 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game. He is shooting 64.3% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc, but has shot just 6 3’s this season. In the first meeting he led the Lakers with 18 points.
Keys to the Game
Defense - Defense wins games. The Celtics are 3rd in the league with a defensive rating of 105.8. The Lakers 5th with a defensive rating of 106.2. The Celtics let their defense slip in the last game vs the Wolves and so they need to get back to making defense a priority in this game. The Lakers are 4th in the league with an offensive rating of 113.4 and the Celtics will need their best defense to limit them. The Lakers will bring their defense and so the Celtics have to match their defensive intensity.
Rebound - Rebounding takes effort and energy and the Celtics will need both to out-rebound the Lakers. They need to crash the boards and keep the Lakers from getting second chance points and fast breaks. The Celtics are averaging 45.9 rebounds per game while the Lakers are averaging 46.3 rebounds per game. The Lakers are 2nd in points in the paint with 56.3 per game and 2nd with 14.9 second chance points per game. The Celtics have to crash the boards to limit their put backs and second chance baskets.
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 absolutely can’t let the Lakers be more aggressive or play harder than them if they want to have a chance to win.
Move the Ball Carefully - The Celtics need to share the ball and make the extra pass to find the best shot possible. When they over dribble and don’t play team ball, they never play very well. They have to move the ball. But, they also must take care of the ball because the Lakers are 2nd in fast break points with 18.8 points per game and 3rd in points off turnovers with 18.8 per game. If the Celtics get sloppy and turn the ball over, the Lakers will certainly make them pay.
On the Road - 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 (very) hostile arena and focus on playing the right way. Hopefully, since they got there on Saturday, they didn’t let the LA nightlife take away from their focus on the game.
Celtic Pride and Revenge- “Beat LA” is one of the most iconic chants in sports. 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. However, the Lakers will be out for revenge after the Celtics handed them their worst loss this season in Boston. They were embarrassed and will be looking for payback in this one and the Celtics need to be ready for it.
Officiating - The officiating is always an x-factor. Every crew calls the game differently and the Celtics have to adapt to how the game is being called and not allow bad calls and no calls to take away their focus. If you doubt that officiating is an x-factor, just think back to the last Finals between these two teams. In game 7, the Celtics were up 6 going into the 4th quarter. The refs had called the game evenly up until then. But in the 4th quarter, the referees took over and it cost the Celtics that game. The Lakers took 21 free throws in the 4th quarter alone while the Celtics took 6. The Lakers took more free throws in the 4th quarter than they did in the first 3 quarters combined. Hopefully they call it fair in this game and let both teams play.