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Taylor’s Tickets to Triumph: Celtics-Lakers

The Celtics look to get back to winning ways when they face the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.

Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

If there was ever a time to rediscover yourself and bring forth the wrath of Hades, a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on the second night of a back-to-back is it. Of course, the Boston Celtics have dropped their last two games and have looked a shadow of their usual selves while doing so, which further strengthens their need to channel their inner ballers and let loose against LeBron James and Anthony Davis.

Luckily, the Lakers aren’t the world-beaters that they appear to be on paper, far from it, actually. In fact, LeBron and co. are sitting 12th in the Western Conference with an 11-15 record and boast a 28th-ranked defense over the past two weeks. As such, the Celtics should have no problem finding areas to attack and, hopefully, ways to overcome Darvin Ham’s team.

This is the NBA, though, and wins don’t come easy. With that being said, here are my 3 tickets to triumph heading into Tuesday’s game.

Dare them to shoot

Los Angeles Lakers v Detroit Pistons Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The Lakers have struggled for three-point shooting and floor spacing all season, and to this point, nothing has changed. Currently, the Lakers are 28th in three-point shooting, 25th in mid-range success, and 7th when finishing around the rim.

So, if the numbers tell us anything, it’s that you want to keep the Lakers on the perimeter, force them into attacking close-outs, and then take away their drives so they have to shoot middies. Sounds easy, right?

Well, judging by the Lakers' shot frequencies, it would seem other teams are finding it to be! The Lakers rank 27th for attempts on the perimeter and 21st for mid-range attempts, but no other team is taking more shots around the up, with 40.4% of their offense coming from within 4 feet of the basket. It’s worth remembering that Anthony Davis is currently playing the best basketball of his life, and is a singularity on the glass, so the Celtics will have their work cut out in keeping him at bay!

May I suggest running veer backs on him when he rolls off the screen?

Get back to running decoy actions.

Boston Celtics v Golden State Warriors Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

One of the things that have made the Celtics such a difficult prospect to deal with this season is the number of decoy actions they run — both on the weak side and as entry actions for the ball-handler.

From Spain PnRs that are simply there to create driving lanes to weakside staggers or twirls, Boston has done a fantastic job of keeping all five defenders engaged during offensive possessions. However, over the last two games, the Celtics have moved away from this type of offense for whatever reason. Still, what the Lakers lack in offensive potency, they make up for on the defensive side of the ball, so keeping them on their toes should be a focal point of what Boston looks to do when attacking in the half-court.

Boston might live and die by their three-point shots, but getting the defense in rotation and creating favorable matchups will always be a primary part of the team's philosophy, and so far this season, these types of decoy actions have been a significant portion of how they’ve created so many successful opportunities.

Find a way to get Jayson Tatum going

Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

It’s been a rough couple of days for Jayson Tatum, who has struggled to maintain his MVP-level play in games against the Golden State Warriors and LA Clippers, but if there was ever a time for him to reaffirm his place among the best in the league, it’s against the Lakers.

Tatum always seems to find a new gear when playing against LeBron, and if the Celtics are to avoid flirting with a genuine losing streak, then Tatum will need to be near his best, which is a tough ask on the second night of a back-to-back.

Still, if you can get Tatum so early looks from his spots, or create easy driving opportunities for him to see a couple of easy ones fall, then things should start looking bright for the 24-year-old, and that’s usually when we see him settle into a rhythm and begin playing like someone out of NBA Street for the remainder of the game.

Final Thoughts

Win or lose, the Celtics will still be among the front runners in the NBA and will have plenty of time to get their season back on track. However, a loss to the Lakers always stings that little bit more, especially when it’s a third straight loss on the back of some uncharacteristically poor performances.

Still, if the Celtics rediscover their offensive swagger and avoid making too many defensive mistakes, they have more than a good enough chance of leaving the game with a W, of course, figuring out how to contain Davis and keep LeBron James from rolling back the clock is going to be a significant factor in how the game goes for them.

Overall, it would be nice to see Boston grab a victory, and it would be even nicer if it happens courtesy of a blow-out. But, in reality, this is going to be a high-level game with some of the league’s most talented players sharing the parquet, and that in itself is a huge win for everybody. I still want a W, though!

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