The Celtics host their oldest and biggest rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers. This is the second and final meeting between these two teams. They met for the first time this season on December 13 in Los Angeles. The Celtics won that game 122-118 in OT. The Celtics lead the series overall all time 164-133. They lead 83-51 in games played at home. The series was tied 1-1 last season with each team winning at home.
Over the last 10 regular season meetings, each team has won 5 of those games. Since the Lakers moved to Los Angeles, before the 1960-61 season, they have met 206 times and the Celtics lead with 110 wins to 96 for the Lakers. The Celtics are 9-3 against the Lakers in the Finals. Boston won the first 8 titles before the Lakers won 3 of the last 4 meetings with the Celtics last title coming against the Lakers in 2008.
The Celtics are still 1st in the East, although their margin has shrunk to 2.5 games over 2nd place Philadelphia and 3rd place Milwaukee. They are also 5 games ahead of 4th place Brooklyn. The Celtics are 18-6 at home and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They are 15-4 against Western Conference opponents. They have lost their last 3 games.
The Lakers are 13th in the West, where the standings are very close. They are just 1 game behind 10th place Utah and 1.5 games behind 7th place Phoenix. They are 2.5 games behind 6th place Dallas and a playoff spot. They are 10-14 on the road and 5-5 in their last 10 games. They are 11-9 against Eastern Conference opponents. They are looking for their 2nd straight win.
The Celtics are playing in the 2nd game of a 4 game home stand. They will host Brooklyn and Phoenix before heading out on the road once again. They lost the first game of the home stand on Thursday against the Knicks. The Lakers are playing in the first game of a 5 game road trip. The Lakers last played on Wednesday when they beat the Spurs at home.
Marcus Smart remains out for the Celtics with a sprained ankle. Danilo Gallinari remains out as he rehabs a torn ACL. Robert Williams was a late addition to the injury list. He is listed as questionable with an ankle sprain that he presumably picked up in the Celtics’ last game against the Knicks. His status will be a game time decision.
For the Lakers, LeBron James is listed as questionable with a sore ankle. He has been questionable for the past 8 games but has continued to play through the soreness. Anthony Davis returned on Wednesday after missing 20 games with a stress injury in his foot. He is probable for this game. Lonnie Walker IV is questionable with a knee injury. He has missed the last 14 games and this is the second game he is listed as questionable. He did not play on Wednesday after being considered questionable for that one. Austin Reaves is listed as out for this game with a hamstring injury. LeBron, Davis, and Walker will all be a game time decision.
Probable Celtics Starters
2 Way Players
Danilo Gallinari (ACL) out
Marcus Smart (ankle) out
Head Coach (Interim)
Probable Lakers Starters
2 Way Players
Scottie Pippen, Jr
LeBron James (ankle) questionable
Anthony Davis (foot) probable
Lonnie Walker IV (knee) questionable
Austin Reaves (hamstring) out
Al Horford vs LeBron James
LeBron is averaging 29.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 50.7% from the field and 30.4% from beyond the arc. In the first game against the Celtics on December 13, LeBron finished with 33 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 2 steals and 1 block. He is listed as questionable but has been listed as questionable for the past 8 games and has played in all of them so I expect him to play and play well.
Robert Williams III vs Anthony Davis
Davis returned to the Lakers on Wednesday after missing 20 games with a foot injury. He is probable for this game. He is averaging 27.2 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 2.2 blocks per game. He is shooting 59.0% from the field and 29.4% from beyond the arc. The Celtics will definitely have their hands full trying to contain both LeBron and Davis.
Malcolm Brogdon vs Russell Westbrook
Westbrook has been doing a good job for the Lakers coming off the bench. He is averaging 15.8 points 6.3 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He is shooting 42.1% from the field and 28.6% from beyond the arc. He brings energy and effort off the bench and is always a threat to have a big game. This should be a good matchup of 2 Sixth Man of the Year candidates.
Keys to the Game
Defense - I can’t say it enough that defense is the most important key to winning. The Celtics are 5th in the league with a defensive rating of 110.9. The Lakers 20th with a defensive rating of 113.9. The Celtics have been playing better on the defensive end but still aren’t consistent and often allow too many open shots and layups. They must stay committed to playing tough, lock down defense, especially against a Lakers team with some very good offensive weapons. The Celtics must especially defend in the paint as the Lakers are 2nd in the league with 56.5 points in the paint per game.
Rebound - Rebounding takes effort and energy and the Celtics will need both to out-rebound the Lakers. The Celtics need to crash the boards and keep the Lakers from getting second chance points and fast breaks as they are 4th in the league with 17.1 fast break points per game. The Celtics are averaging 44.7 rebounds per game (7th) while the Lakers are averaging 44.9 rebounds per game (6th). The Celtics must put out extra energy and effort to beat the Lakers to rebounds.
Play Hard from Start to Finish - The Celtics must start strong and then play hard throughout the entire game until the final buzzer, whether that is 48 minutes or in Overtime. Against the Knicks, the Celtics started strong and then let up on effort and allowed the Knicks to hang around and even build a 13 point lead in the 4th quarter. The Celtics were able to come back to force overtime but then let up and lost focus down the stretch. They must stay focused and play hard and be aggressive for the entire game from start to finish.
Play Team Ball - The Celtics are at their best when they keep the ball moving and find the best shot. When they play iso ball and players try to do too much individually, they falter. The Celtics are 6th with 26.5 assists per game. In their losses, they often have fewer than 20 assists. They need to move the ball carefully to avoid turnovers and they need to play team ball without any player trying to do too much. They also have to have each others backs on defense.
Pride - “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. The Celtics have to focus on the game and on playing the right way. It’s a matter of pride and the Celtics need to get the job done and “Beat LA”. On the other hand, LeBron and the Lakers always want to beat the Celtics and so they will give extra effort to beat one of their biggest rivals.
Home Game - The Celtics are at home and should get a boost from the crowd who will hopefully be loud and enthusiastic. The Lakers are on the first game of a 5 game road trip and may have some travel fatigue and also other distractions that come from playing on the road. The Lakers have not played their best on the road this season with just a 10-14 record on the road. The Celtics should take advantage of playing on their home court and in front of their fans.
Officiating - The officiating can always be 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 the refs call it fair in this game and let both teams play.