Kobe Bryant will play his final game in Boston tonight when the Los Angeles Lakers face the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden. This is an interesting stop in the Farewell Tour and it is yet to be seen whether he will be greeted with cheers or boos from the Boston faithful.
The Lakers have been struggling of late and have lost four games in a row after dropping their last game to the Charlotte Hornets. The Lakers were competitive with the Hornets in the first half, but ultimately failed to compete in the second half. The Lakers are in desperate need of a win, and Kobe would want nothing more than to beat the Celtics in the Garden one last time.
Frontcourt: The frontcourt player who produces the most for the Celtics is Jae Crowder. Crowder is a good defensive player who can also produce on the offensive end of the floor. Kobe will have to pick his spots well offensively with Crowder guarding him and the Lakers should run sets to get him in a good position to score.
Amir Johnson and Jared Sullinger are the big men down low that the Lakers will need to key in on. Neither of them are great individual threats on offense, but they will benefit when the Celtics guards inevitable break down the Lakers defense. Sullinger is averaging a near double-double this season and is an active body down low, so the Lakers frontcourt needs to keep a body on him in the paint.
Backcourt: The Celtics biggest strength is their duo of guards in the backcourt. Isaiah Thomas is their leading scorer and he tends to have his best performances against the Lakers. Thomas grew up a Lakers fan and is always eager to show out against them. The 5’9″ point guard will look to break down the Lakers defense with his quickness, but he can also get hot from downtown.
Starting alongside Thomas is Avery Bradley, who made his name in the league with his aggressive defense. Bradley can also score well and is the second leading scorer behind Thomas. Bradley and Thomas will push the tempo against the Lakers and look for easy scoring opportunities in transition. D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson will have to step up defensively and take care of the ball on the offensive end as well.
Keys to Victory:
Transition Defense: The Celtics will look to push the pace with their two quick guards, so the Lakers need to get back defensively. The Lakers have been a poor transition defense team all season and do not get back on defense quickly enough to stop the break. They will have to limit their turnovers and take good shots in order to lower the chance of the Celtics pushing the break.
Fast Break Points: Boston is the eighth best team in the league in fast break points and the Lakers are ranked 23rd. The Lakers are young enough and quick enough to push the break as well, so they should take advantage and try to get as many easy scoring opportunities possible. The Lakers have the ability to keep up with the Celtics guards and they can potentially outmatch them with their size and length.
Defense: The Lakers are the worst team in the league when it comes to defensive efficiency. Their opponents always shoot a high percentage from the field and score a lot of points against the shoddy defense. Defense takes effort, and the effort has not been there for the Lakers all season. If they want to start winning games, the Lakers will need to start playing defense.
Los Angeles Lakers (5-27) Vs. Boston Celtics (18-13)
4:30 P.M. PST, December 30, 2015
TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 (Spanish)
Celtics Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Jae Crowder
PF: Amir Johnson
C: Jared Sullinger
Key Reserves: PG: Marcus Smart, SF: Evan Turner, PF: David Lee
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup:
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Lou Williams
SF: Kobe Bryant
PF: Larry Nance Jr.
C: Roy Hibbert
Key Reserves: PG: D’Angelo Russell, PF: Julius Randle, PF: Brandon Bass