Rivalry, revisited: Los Angeles Lakers @ Boston Celtics preview

Logo of NBA club Los Angeles Lakers

There’s nothing better than an old rivalry, and what better opponent than our dear old friends in purple and gold, the Lakers? Admittedly, off-season hype and reality has proven to be way off the mark for both the C’s and the Lakers. The question remains however, who will take the W tomorrow?

The C’s come off a back-to-back win against the Raptors, which could be a small factor with KG (32 minutes) and Pierce (37 minutes).

Trivia: Almost two years ago on Feb 10 2011, I was part of the crowd that witnessed the Ray recordbreaking three at the Garden. We lost that game, still a great moment though.

Fact: The Lakers have won 6 of their last 10 games and have a 3 game win streak now. This will be the 5th game of a 7 game road trip.

Game time: 8 Feb 2013, 1200hrs AEDT

Watch on: NBA League Pass

Roster changes:

1. Rajon Rondo is out for the season with a torn ACL.

2. Jared Sullinger is out for the season after his back operation.

3. Pau Gasol will be out for a while with the tear in the plantar fascia of his right foot.

4. Dwight Howard is nursing a right shoulder injury, but has been announced as the starting center.

5. Metta World Peace will return from his one game suspension.

Defense

With Pau and Howard both out, expect Sacre to be inserted as the 5. The Lakers lose an effective post presence with Gasol’s untimely injury, expect the offensive to be run around Kobe and Nash as the primary options.

The new look, all-assisting “Magic” Kobe will be a handful to deal with on passing when you have an energetic forward like Earl Clark who plays effectively off the ball. Kobe will likely be matched up against Lee, a definite height/experience mismatch there. Lee will have to be careful not to fall for the Black Mamba’s trademark foul baiting; we need him on both ends of the floor, and foul trouble could very well turn the game on its head.

How about Bradley on Nash? I like the idea of Bradley’s pressure stifling Nash into possible TOs. Nash is not one of the great all-time point guards for nothing though, and will likely be less affected than other guards in the league. Expect wily veteran experience to counter youthful energy and defensive prowess on this match up. Should Bradley prove capable of stopping Nash’s pick-and-roll game though, we will have a huge advantage on slowing their offense down.

Shall we talk about KG on Sacre? No? Really? Fine. It could be interesting if the Lakers decide to go really small right off the bat, and insert Jamison instead of Sacre though. That would shuffle everything up on defense, and possibly change the game. Possibly. I’m still convinced with KG around and Green off the bench, we can handle any kind of small ball they throw at us.

Bass will have his work cut out for him in keeping up with Clark. Here’s hoping he contains the cuts and rebounding (6.0 RPG) Clark is capable of. Pierce against Metta World Peace is another classic matchup, but Pierce will have to be mindful of MWP’s D’Antoni-ed focus on the 3 ball, and stop him from taking open shots. Also – no second chance points, especially against a depleted frontcourt.

Offense

Today’s game against the Raptors showed some kinks whenever KG was off the floor – passing became a really awkward issue. No time for adjustments though, all we can do is trudge forward with the same spread and see how the Lakers handle it. If KG is around, dump it into the post and let him work on whoever-it-is. Hell, get a screen and switch, let him abuse someone smaller. If not, we have to move better off the ball; set off-the-ball picks and get some cutting action going along with the drives.

All in all, we can trust the captain to keep the offense running, especially when it comes to the Lakers.

Another positive takeaway from Toronto: 12 fourth quarter points, courtesy of Mr Instant Offense himself: Leandro Barbosa. The dude can score and will score. Push the court tempo up, and so long as he’s attacking even in semi-transition, there should be good things happening.

I like Lee’s decisiveness on offense these days, he’s proving to be a stalwart as we move forward in the season, driving and shooting with supreme confidence. We need someone outside of Pierce to take charge , be able to penetrate and finish. Bradley similarly is doing a good job, but I believe he is still not at 100%, which limits his output somewhat.

A big question mark tomorrow: bench production. Lee’s move into the starting lineup has deprived the bench of a scorer on the rise, and Sully’s disappearance isn’t helping either. We need JET to find his scoring rhythm, and soon.

Turn defense into offense guys. Stops, stops, stops. Transition, layups, layups.


Can we hold on to our streak and end the Lakers’ winning spree? If we can’t stop a handicapped Lakers team without two dominant frontcourt players, we don’t deserve to go anywhere.

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