3/3 Game Preview: Celtics at Lakers
LOS ANGELES -- After experiencing the high of a big win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics will try to extend their euphoria when they face the struggling Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night at Staples Center.
Celtics guard Avery Bradley, who played his second game since returning from an Achilles injury, figured prominently in the 103-99 victory over Cleveland on Wednesday at Boston.
"I think it's big for us, especially going on to the west coast," Bradley said. "This needs to carry over for us,"
Bradley hit the go-ahead 3-pointer in the clash of the Eastern Conference's top teams, and he also contributed on the defensive end, forcing Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving to miss a shot late in the game that would have tied the score.
Isaiah Thomas, the NBA's second-leading scorer at 29.6 points per game, scored a game-high 31 points to lead the Celtics (39-22), who are three games behind the Cavaliers for the top spot in the East. Bradley finished with 11 points in 22 minutes.
"That's what I play this game for -- to go up against the best players," Bradley told Celtics.com. "I know I haven't been out there for a while, but hopefully I can still be mentioned for First-Team All-Defense (at the end of the season). It's something I take pride in every chance I get, and I love going up against the Kyrie's, the Russell Westbrook's, all those guys."
The Celtics will play a Lakers' squad that has lost five in a row and 16 of their last 20 games.
In their last meeting on Feb. 3 at TD Garden, Thomas scored 17 of his 38 points in the fourth quarter as the Celtics defeated the Lakers 113-107.
Los Angeles (19-42) is coming off a 109-104 loss at home to the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday. Julius Randle and D'Angelo Russell each scored 23 points to pace the Lakers. Randle also had 18 rebounds and six assists.
Randle was encouraged by Lakers coach Luke Walton before the game to look for his shot more, particularly after Lou Williams was dealt to Houston for Corey Brewer and a first-round pick last week.
"I just try to be aggressive," said Randle, who is averaging 13 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. "When I play aggressively and don't overthink the game, I'm better. When I am still being aggressive but thinking too much, I run into some trouble, so (I'm) trying to be aggressive and just playing."
Despite the losses piling up, Walton remains upbeat about his young club. However, Walton said the Lakers must overcome their inability to score consistently in the fourth quarter.
"Obviously, it is more difficult without Lou," Walton said. "He's a fit and knows how to get to the free-throw line and knows how to hit those big shots. But I look at it as a big opportunity because the only way you learn to do something is to get out there and experience it, most likely fail and realize that if you do fail, it is fine. It just means you get back in the gym and work on it even more."
Lakers forward Thomas Robinson, who missed the defeat to the Hornets with flu, is listed as probable for the contest against the Celtics.