The Los Angeles Lakers finally seem to be getting healthy and it couldn’t come at a better time as the team kicks off a crucial five-game East coast road trip. And it starts in primetime on national TV against the team with the best record in the NBA, the hated Boston Celtics.
Guard Lonnie Walker IV is making his return to the Lakers just one game after Anthony Davis returned and new acquisition Rui Hachimura made his purple and gold debut. Like Davis, Walker is expected to be on a minutes restriction in his first game back.
The Lakers have won three of their last four games while the Celtics have lost three straight. It is no coincidence that the Celtics’ struggles coincided with them losing point guard Marcus Smart to an ankle injury.
The first contest between these two teams was one of the most exciting games of the year. The Lakers fought back from a large deficit to take a lead, only for Boston to come roaring back in the final minutes to force overtime where the Celtics ultimately prevailed.
This is a matchup of arguably the two best duos in the NBA today. LeBron James is an All-Star captain once again and Davis looked just like his normal self in his first game back in the lineup for the Lakers. Meanwhile, Boston boasts one of the MVP favorites in Jayson Tatum and his long-time running mate Jaylen Brown, one of the league’s best two-way players.
The two teams operate completely differently so this contest will likely come down to which one can impose its will the best. The Lakers like to get out in transition as much as possible and do most of their damage in the paint. That will only increase with Davis back in the lineup. The Celtics, on the other hand, are lethal from long range, ranking second in the NBA in 3-pointers made per game, and ninth in 3-point percentage.
The battle on the glass should also be extremely important. The Lakers have struggled at times to clean up the boards and giving multiple chances against a team who shoots as well as Boston is a recipe for disaster.
This means the battle of the big men will be crucial. Thomas Bryant will need to figure out the best way to operate in his role as Davis’ return will eat into his minutes and opportunities, as will the acquisition of Hachimura. But while the Celtics have the always-difficult Al Horford, their defensive stalwart Robert Williams III is out due to an ankle sprain.
Los Angeles Lakers (23-26) vs. Boston Celtics (35-15)
5:30 p.m. PT, January 28, 2023
TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Dennis Schroder
SG: Patrick Beverley
SF: Troy Brown Jr.
PF: LeBron James
C: Thomas Bryant
Key Reserves: Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Rui Hahcimura, Lonnie Walker IV, Max Christie, Wenyen Gabriel
Projected Celtics Starting Lineup:
PG: Derrick White
SG: Jaylen Brown
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Grant Williams
C: Al Horford
Key Reserves: Malcolm Brogdon, Payton Pritchard, Sam Hauser, Luke Kornet
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