Derek Fisher – Rajon Rondo
Kobe Bryant – Ray Allen
Ron Artest – Paul Pierce
Pau Gasol – Kevin Garnett
Andrew Bynum – Shaquille O’Neal
In what might be the most anticipated game of the year for NBA fans, the Celtics and Lakers will finally meet once again. Since losing Game 7 in June, the Celtics look back at last year’s Finals with their heads down. Yet again and again, coach Doc Rivers mentions “The starting 5 has never lost a playoff series”. With Perkins still looking to fully recover after his surgery, the Lakers will see their formerly loved player Shaquille O’Neal in the starting line-up. Kendrick Perkins is still haunted by Game 7, when Kobe and crew celebrated with their second straight championship at Staples Center. Now with Perkins back on the active roster, he is set to show what he could’ve done to help the Celtics win.
The Celtics are coming off a physical game in which they won against Portland on Thursday, followed by a loss in Phoenix on Friday. Their game on Sunday afternoon against the Lakers will be their third of four straight road games. Doc Rivers was thrown out of the game by the officials before the first half was over in Phoenix. Kevin Garnett was also ejected late in the game for “unintentionally” hitting Channing Frye below the waist, and getting into a short scuffle. The Celtics lost to the Suns by 17 points, and shot a dismal 34% from the field.
The Celtics have only lost two straight games three times this season. The Lakers hope to extend that skid today after coming off an ugly loss against the Sacramento Kings. The Kings snatched a win in L.A. on Friday night. The Lakers had a terrible third quarter in which they were down by 20 points at one point. The Lakers rallied in the fourth quarter and caught up with the Kings, but Sacramento pulled away as L.A. just couldn’t sink a shot in the last few seconds.
The Lakers seem to be careless as they prepare for a tough contender. In a previous game, the Lakers lost to the Bucks on the 21st of December by 19 points. After the Bucks they faced the Heat at home on Christmas Day, and everybody remembers how that turned out. History may be repeating itself, as the Lakers again dropped a game in a shocking loss against the Kings, and things won’t get any easier as they have Boston coming up this afternoon. If the Lakers want to change their bad habits, they must start preparing and play with more heart.
Keys to a Lakers Win:
Control the tempo – When the Lakers pick up the tempo of the game early, they more than likely come out with a win in the end. They will need to pick up the tempo both offensively and defensively. Their defensive stops will help build their offensive flow.
Crash the boards – In three out of their last four games the Lakers have been out-rebounded. The team needs to make a strong effort to crash boards and box-out.
Get physical – The Celtics play with an incredible amount of physical defense. They always work hard and have a body on their opponent. The Lakers will need to do the same and make Boston work for their shots. On the offense end, draw fouls by taking it to the rim against Garnett, O’Neal, or Perkins.
Play with confidence – The loss against the Kings was inexcusable for the defending champs. They looked heartless at Staples on Friday night. If they want to three-peat, they must play with passion once again.
Remind the Celtics that you took them out in Game 7 of the Finals – Sweet revenge still lingers with the Lakers. Why not taste victory against their rival team once again? When the Lakers step on the court, they must show they own it from start to finish.
This game means more than just another regular season game. This one is going to be special. In the end, the winner of this game is making a loud statement to the other team that they are the top contender moving forward.