The Los Angeles Lakers have LeBron James back in action just in time for a clash against their archenemy, the Boston Celtics.
With James’ return, the game’s significance skyrockets. The Lakers have been repeatedly brushing off the 8-8 start to the 2021-22 campaign, pointing out they are yet to approach a single game with a healthy roster.
L.A. will still play without Trevor Ariza, Kendrick Nunn and Austin Reaves on Friday. Nevertheless, James’ comeback should serve as an immediate boost for the struggling Lakers on both ends of the floor.
Head coach Frank Vogel is facing a head-scratcher in deciding the starting lineup for the clash. However, it’s to imagine Vogel he would sit Talen Horton-Tucker after he dazzled in the three games following his season debut.
The 20-year-old averaged 23.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists, shooting 40% from behind the line. He also showed he could become one of the anchors of the Lakers’ defense, which has been Vogel’s plan ever since the preseason.
The clash against the Celtics could make for a good opportunity to test out different schemes now that L.A. has both James and Horton-Tucker in the fold. Boston ranks ninth in the Eastern Conference with a 7-8 record and has been one of the NBA’s worst offenses this year — in part due to Jaylen Brown’s leg injury that has kept him out of six straight games.
The Celtics shoot just 32.3% from behind the 3-point line, which is a stat the Lakers should be particularly happy about. The Chicago Bulls hurt L.A. badly from downtown. So did the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday, with Giannis Antetokounmpo traditionally morphing into a sharpshooter and going 3-of-4 from beyond the arc against the Lakers.
However, the Celtics do boast a solid defense, ranking 11th in the NBA with a defensive rating of 106.0. L.A. needs to execute their plays well as Boston allows the sixth-fewest field goal attempts (38.5 per game) and allows opponents to shoot just 33% from behind the 3-point line.
Besides execution, the Lakers should use their pace and athleticism and double down on attacking the basket. The Celtics are among the teams allowing the most free throws in the league, which should result in extra and-1 opportunities and chances to score even if the ball doesn’t fall into the net.
The Lakers face a great opportunity to make a statement on Friday, traveling to the home of their bitter rivals right when their leader returns from an injury. Besides, they will come against an old teammate, Dennis Schroder, whose one-year-long spell in Los Angeles ended in awkward circumstances in the summer.
Does L.A. need more motivation to put on a show at TD Garden?
Lakers (8-8) vs. Celtics (7-8)
4:30 p.m. PT, Nov. 19, 2021
TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
TV: ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Talen Horton-Tucker
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Wayne Ellington, Kent Bazemore, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Malik Monk, Carmelo Anthony
Projected Celtics Starting Lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Grant Williams
C: Al Horford
Key Reserves: Enes Kanter, Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford
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