Watch It! - Lakers at Celtics

Here are five things to watch out for when the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers meet at 7:30 p.m. tonight at TD Garden.

Rondo’s First Game

Brad Stevens and Rajon Rondo stand next to each other on the sideline

Brad Stevens and Rajon Rondo will be all smiles tonight when the point guard makes his first start of the season.
Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

If you haven’t heard the news (has anyone in Boston not heard the news!?), Rajon Rondo is making his long-awaited return to the lineup tonight. He will start at point guard for the Celtics for the first time since Jan. 25, 2013.

As we detailed yesterday, Rondo is undoubtedly going to make the Celtics a better team. His passing ability, basketball IQ and overall leadership are top-notch. When you add that to a lineup, the rest of the team is bound to play better.

No one is more excited about this return than Rondo himself. However, all of us, including Rondo, need to be realistic. The four-time All-Star is almost certain to have some hiccups in his first game back, and he’s probably not going to notch a triple-double (despite Kris Humphries’ prediction of such on Thursday).

Keep your expectations realistic for Rondo’s first game back, but also expect him to make a hefty impact on this game.

The Lakers are Reeling

The Lakers could quite possibly be the worst team in the NBA right now. They have lost 12 of their last 13 games, including a current six-game skid in which they’ve given up an average of 120.7 points per game.

Many fans in Lakerland would respond to the paragraph above by saying, “Well, the Celtics just lost nine in a row!” This is true, but Boston has been much more competitive than Los Angeles.

The Celtics dropped three games during their streak by a one-possession margin. Four of the nine losses were by six points or less, and this was during a stretch during which the Celtics played five presumed title contenders.

The Lakers? Well, they’re a different story. Seven of their last 12 losses have come by at least 13 points, including five of their last seven. They lost by 15 points to the worst team in the league, Milwaukee. They’ve given up at least 110 points in six straight games.

So yeah, the Lakers are definitely reeling.

The Garden Crowd

If you happen to be walking down Causeway Street at any point between 7:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. tonight, you might feel like you’re inside TD Garden. This crowd is going to be loud, and it’s going to be boisterous.

All of the necessary ingredients are in the pot to create the best crowd of the season in Boston. It’s Friday night. The Lakers are in town. Rondo is making his season debut. Expect the Garden faithful to make plenty of noise.

No Young for L.A.

Los Angeles will be without its leading scorer, Nick Young, during tonight’s game. The NBA suspended Young on Thursday for one game after he threw a punch at Suns guard Goran Dragic during Wednesday’s game.

Young has averaged 16.4 PPG for the Lakers while holding down their sixth man role. Losing his scoring punch will be an enormous hit for a team that struggles to score the ball. The Lakers may average more than 100 points a night, but they are not very efficient at scoring those points. They make only 43.9 percent of their shots, which ranks 23rd in the league. That percentage may drop even lower for the Lakers as they play without their most talented perimeter player.

Playing an Nine-Man Game

Brad Stevens spoke Wednesday night about how his team felt as if its back was against the wall against the Toronto Raptors. After all, the Celtics had only 10 players available for the game after the team completed a trade earlier in the day.

If a team feels as if its back is against the wall with 10 available players, just imagine how it would feel to have only nine players available. That’s likely how the Lakers are going to feel tonight.

Los Angeles has 15 players under contract. Five of them are going to miss tonight’s game with injuries and one will miss the game with a suspension. On top of those six missing players, Los Angeles’ ninth available body is Manny Harris, who just signed with the team last night.

That doesn’t sound like a fun situation for Mike D’Antoni to manage.