Lakers vs. Celtics Pre-Game Report: Rivalry Renewed in Boston

courtesy of @Meir21 of THD 

Los Angeles Lakers (14-11) at Boston Celtics (14-10)
5:00 PM PST, February 9, 2012
TD Garden, Boston, MA
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)

Celtics Projected Starting Line-up

PG: Rajon Rondo
SG: Ray Allen
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Kevin Garnett
C: Jermaine O’Neal

Key Reserves: PF Brandon Bass, GF Mickael Pietrus, PG Avery Bradley

The Lakers seek a win on the road in Boston against their arch nemesis, the Celtics. Much like the Lakers, the men in green have struggled this season. They started out slow, but recently have picked up steam and are winners of nine of their last 10. Boston’s defense has been the key to their recent surge – they are holding opponents to a league best 86.5 points per game. Kobe and Co. will have their work cut out for them tonight. Get strapped in because we’re in for a gritty, entertaining slugfest.

Frontcourt: Jermaine O’Neal has stayed healthy for most of this year and he’s provided the Celtics with great interior defense and rebounding. However, Boston has often played small for stretches of the game and gone with Garnett at center and Bass at the four. Garnett has been solid with averages of 14 points and 7 boards. The biggest surprise for the Celtics has been sixth man Brandon Bass who has emerged as a key player. He logs more than 29 minutes per night and has been a reliable source of energy and points for this aging Celtics squad.

Backcourt: Rajon Rondo is currently the best player on the Celtics and the future of the franchise rests in his hands. He’s averaging nearly 10 assists per game this season against a career high 3.8 turnovers. Ray Allen’s three point shooting is off the charts this season – 2.6 treys at 52.6%! The Lakers should take note and stick a man on Allen at all times. One thing that has stood out about Pierce this season is that he’s become a facilitator. He’s averaging 5.7 assists per game and even with the return of Rondo, he’s still dishing dimes. Off the bench, Pietrus has been a great source of threes with 2 per game. He’s also a great perimeter defender who can make it tough for opposing guards to score.

Keys to Lakers’ Victory:
Pick Rondo’s Pockets – Whether you want to blame it on the sprained right wrist or not, one cannot argue that Rondo has been careless with the ball this year. The Lakers need to capitalize on his sloppiness and turn Rondo over as often as possible. Lakers need help scoring and points off turnovers is one solution to their problems.

Guard the Perimeter – Sinking 40.7 percent of their shots from beyond the arc, the Celtics lead the league in three point percentage. The Lakers’ guards need to employ hand in face defense along the perimeter. They can’t afford to give the Celtics open looks.

Pound the Paint – Bynum has emerged as a legit 20+ point per game scorer. The Lakers need to keep feeding the beast. He should be able to take advantage of the Celtic’s thin frontcourt. In addition Gasol is also capable of scoring 20 any given night and he’s also the best passing big man in the league. Good things happen when the Lakers run their offense through Gasol at the elbow.

Lakers Injury watch: Q: Steve Blake (fractured rib cartilege)

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