Records: Lakers 7-4; Celtics 9-1
Offensive ratings: Lakers 112.3 (3rd); Celtics 112.0 (5th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.8 (11th); Celtics 95.1 (1st)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf, Andrew Bynum
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins
Lakers Notes: There is a buzz about tonightâ€™s game. Boston is back near the top of the East, and the Lakers have surprised as one of the better teams in the West so far. Two traditional rivals playing well, plus the whole KG trade drama, make this a fun match up. Well, for us the fans, I imagine the coaches donâ€™t find it as fun.
The Lakers have had a couple better defensive games of late, at least until the other night in Wisconsin (the Bucks shot 53.4% eFG% as a team and had an offensive rating of 116.6 for the night). The offense will keep the Lakers in those games (as long as they donâ€™t just start chucking up threes) but to win consistently they need to be consistent at the defensive end. And that is especially true tonight.
Trevor Ariza (wearing number 3) likely will suit up tonight and get a chance to show what he can do on defense, as the Celtics have several athletic wingman he could spend time defending (Mr. Ariza, meet Mr. Pierce).
The Celtics Coming In:The Celtics have been even better than I and many others expected â€” and I thought they would be good. To get a little inside perspective on the Celtics, I turned to one of the bloggers I most admire, Jeff from Celtics Blog. He kindly answered a few questions.
When the big three were put together everyone knew the offense would be potent, but nobody expected this kind of defense (I mean, Ray Allen is one of the three). How are they doing it?
Part of what made me so excited to get Kevin Garnett is his All World defensive ability. He can guard anyone on the court and anchor the defense at the same time. So that was a great start. Then consider that the two “other” starters Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins are both above average defenders. Then toss in James Posey, enough said. Finally the whole thing is tied together by new assistant coach Tom Thibodeau (a defensive genius) and you have a pretty good snapshot of how this got put together.
Also consider that Pierce and Allen don’t have to carry the team offensively anymore. They’ll never be shutdown guys, but they can put in a little extra effort within the team defensive scheme and make it work.
The other knock on the Celtics was it was going to be the “Big Three” and then some guys who might be D-Leaguers other places. How are Rondo and Perkins doing? Who else is stepping up?
I think the best point about this was made by Ainge, who played with the original Big Three. He said that the majority of the game was focused on the Big Three. Ainge, DJ, and others were there in a support role. That’s all were asking of the guys like Rondo and Perkins. Know your role and do it as best you can. Rondo’s big issue was shooting, but when you leave him wide open (sometimes there’s nobody for miles around him) he can hit shots inside the arc. Perkins has no post moves, but when 3 people collapse on KG and he finds Perkins under the rim, the only move he needs is a two handed slam. He knows his role is to rebound, defend, and pick up garbage dunks.
The bench is all role players too. House is our own Vinny “the Microwave” Johnson. Posey is a shutdown kind of guy. Tony Allen attacks the basket relentlessly. Pollard fouls people. Big Baby Davis is our human victory cigar. It all works (so far).
You’ve got the Celtics, the World Series winning Red Sox, and the undefeated Patriots. Are Bostonians sick of all this winning yet? And who is dominating the hearts and minds of the city?
Please. Boston fans do not have a complex anymore. We are happy to be winners. It is the rest of the world that is sick of Boston winning. And that is a little unfortunate. There’s always going to be that one cocky Boston guy that goes around shoving his teams’ accomplishments (like he did anything to help them win aside from buying a hat) in people’s faces. That never helps. But I most fans are just enjoying the moment, loving the ride, taking it all in to remember for when the natural cycle of things takes a downward turn.
Boston will forever be a Red Sox town, and since they won it all, they still have the hearts and minds of fans. With that said, the Pats are a steamroller right now and they have a mini-dynasty thing going on too. It will be hard for the Celtics to take a spot away from either of those two. They are kind of like the new kids on the block, which given the team’s history is infinitely ironic.
Keys To The Game: Boston has been very good, but their schedule has not been that tough (opponents have won 51% of their games, the Lakers are at 58% and that has dropped recently).
The one place teams have had success attacking the Celtics is at the five â€” while Garnett is always a good defender in the paint teams have been able to attack Perkins â€” opposing centers are shooting 51% and have a PER of 17.4. Assuming the Celtics use Pierce and not Ray Allen on Kobe (Kobe should destroy Allen), then KG likely will be on Odom. Pull the Lakers two outside and Bynum should be able to get some isolation on the block. Points in the paint will be a big stat tonight, the Celtics have dominated that in their wins and if they do tonight it will be because Garnett is getting good position and Pierce is slashing into the lane. The Lakers need to defend these options without fouling. The Lakers also need to keep rebounding position and keep the Celts off of the offensive glass.
The Lakers have the advantage of depth, although the Celtics leave at least one of the big three on the floor at all times (at least until the Human Victory Cigar Big Baby is in the game). This is a game where the Laker bench really needs to step up and punish the guys off the Celtics bench â€” if it is starters on starters that decide this the Lakers will struggle to get a win.
Also, to win this one the Lakers are going to need a big night from Kobe â€” and I expect heâ€™s fired up for this one. He lives for these type of games.
Tonightâ€™s Game: Where Rivalry Happens: I grew up hating the Celtics and wanting to deck that little gnat Danny Ainge. Now I look back on just how much fun it was to have a great rival like that, how the meetings of the two in the regular seasons were like mini-finals. (Still, Iâ€™d like to punch Ainge.) For the last few years I didnâ€™t feel that hatred well up in me when we played the Green, but it is back now. I canâ€™t wait for this game.
Where you can watch: Game time is 4:30 p.m. (Pacific but KCAL (9) is not going to start showing it unitl 5:30, so if you are watching the game live and commenting try to use a spoiler alert. Online check out ESPNâ€™s gamecast.