Game Preview & Chat: The Boston Celtics

Kurt —  December 30, 2007

Records: Lakers 19-10; Celtics 25-3
Offensive ratings: Lakers 107.4 (6th); Celtics 107.6 (5th)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102 (12th); Celtics 91.6 (1st)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkin

Lakers Notes: From Ross Siler of the Salt Lake Tribune is the stat that tells you almost everything you need to know about the Lakers win Friday night — LA’s first 18 points came on lay-ups and dunks.

They attacked the heart of the (surprisingly soft) Utah defense. Eventually Kobe was draining three pointers over the top of the defense (and hitting them like they were lay-ups) but it was that initial attack inside that won the Lakers the game. Andrew Bynum rightfully gets a lot of credit for that attack inside.

But I think another part of the attacking style comes from starting Trevor Ariza the last couple games. He is a slasher who gets to the hole through some tight spaces (watch him go baseline after somebody runs at him on a corner three, he gets through seemingly impossible spaces). He also moves well without the ball, giving the Lakers another cutter in the triangle offense.

All that should be interesting tonight.

The Celtics Coming In: They come to this game on the second night of a back-to-back, their fourth game in five days and the last game of a West Coast road swing. Usually those are key ingredients for teams to have let downs, but the Celtics (with KG leading by example) just have not had that kind of let down this season.

While you knew the big three would be good — and they may be better than expected — one other guy that has been hot the last 10 games is PG Rajon Rondo. He’s shot 50.5% (eFG%) in the last 10, throwing in 5.4 assists per game. The Lakers cannot ignore him tonight.

Loving to Hate Bostonians? Are the Celtics and their fans becoming obnoxious now that they are winning again? Kings fans thing so, and even Boston fans are asking that of themselves.

I’m just enjoying the irony of a Lakers blog getting to talk about the arrogance of another team’s fans.

Last time these two met: The Lakers were just not prepared for the intensity of the Celtics defense when these two met the first time. For the game, the Lakers had an offensive rating of 101, well off their season average, and they shot 48% (eFG%), again down from what they are shooting for the season. The Celtics offense was slightly above its season numbers, but as it has been for the Celtics all season it is the defense that won the game.

Keys To The Game: The Lakers were able to get into the lane a couple nights ago against Utah, and if they can do that again tonight it will go a long time toward a win. With KG and Perkins, the Celtics run a virtual zone inside and both love to come from the weak side for the block — if the Lakers can keep up the interior passing we have seen of late they can make the Celtics pay for that weak-side attack.

What they can’t do is see that interior defense and go bombs away from three over the top of it.

Last meeting, Pierce and the other Celtics were able to penetrate at will, the Lakers need to stop that. Also, turnovers will kill the Lakers tonight as the Celtics will make them pay.

If you want another opinion, check out Don from With Malice’s take on the game.

Tonight’s Game: Where The NBA’s Best Rivalry Happens: The Lakers will be wearing the 87-88 throwbacks tonight, which is very appropriate. The Lakers are playing so much better than the last time these two met, this is a good measuring stick for just how well the Celtics are playing.

Where you can watch: Game time is 7 p.m. (Pacific). In Los Angeles you can watch the regular broadcast on Fox Sports or switch over to the “courtside view” showing on Fox Sports Prime Ticket. Remember the courtside view is the one without announces and shot as if you were sitting somewhere next to Nicholson. It’s a fun view.