Game Preview: Celtics at Lakers
BOSTON – One night after falling to the Nuggets in Denver, the Boston Celtics (28-25) are in Los Angeles to take on the Lakers (25-29) at 10:30 p.m. tonight.
Tonight’s contest will be the second of a season-long five-game road trip for the Celtics. The trip did not begin on a high note but Boston must be optimistic head into tonight’s game against a team they demolished two weeks ago in TD Garden.
The Celtics hosted the Lakers on Feb. 7 and ran away with a 116-95 vcitory. Paul Pierce’s 24 points were a team high and he was one of six Boston players who scored in double-figures.
Los Angeles, which had won six of seven games heading into that meeting in Boston, had no answers for the Celtics at either end of the court. The C’s drained 52.9 percent of their shots in that contest while limiting the Lakers to just 41.4 percent shooting. Kobe Bryant, who scored a game-high 27 points, was the only Lakers player who made more than half of his shots.
The Celtics experienced similar defensive success last night in Denver while limiting the Nuggets to just 42.9 percent shooting as a team. However, the combination of Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson, who each scored 26 points, was too much for Boston to overcome.
An additional hindrance for the Celtics was their own offensive struggles. They made only 44.3 percent of their shots and Doc Rivers simply did not like what he saw out of his team’s offensive play.
“At the end of the day, I thought we didn’t trust each other tonight offensively and that happens,” Rivers said after the loss. “We haven’t done that lately.”
In fact, the Celtics have done the opposite of late, and that’s what helped them win seven of eight games heading into the All-Star break. That’s the type of play that picked apart the Los Angeles Lakers earlier this month, and Pierce is confident that it will return soon.
“We understand how we have to play to win,” Pierce said in Denver. “We will find it on this road trip, hopefully tomorrow.”
The Celtics want to find it tonight, but the Lakers wouldn’t mind it being absent for one more game.
Minimize Kobe’s Dimes
Bryant seems to think that he’s located the solution for Los Angeles’ struggles: passing.
Bryant is averaging 5.6 assists per game this season but he’s been doing his best Paul Pierce impression of late. The 16-year vet has averaged 9.2 APG over his last four contests and he has publicly stated that he’s willing to distribute if it yields wins for the Lakers.
“It's not about us as individuals,” Bryant said after L.A.’s most recent contest, a loss at the hands of the Clippers. “It's about what we can do to help the team.
“I've been doing that since January, when I was trying to make the right play, keep everybody involved, and then I try to get going a little bit.”
Bryant fibbed a bit there, seeing as he went assist-less against the Celtics just five games ago. It would be in Boston’s best interest to try to limit his assists again tonight.
A New Season Comes with Rust
There is no doubt that the Lakers are preaching that today is a new beginning for them; the second half is a fresh start. That’s all fine and dandy, but the Lakers must also realize that rust comes along with this fresh start.
This Lakers team hasn’t played a game together in six days. The Lakers have practiced, but games are a much different animal. The Celtics practiced on Monday but they didn’t look like themselves on offense last night in Denver. Rusty play is common in a team’s first game back from the All-Star break. Los Angeles is likely to find that out tonight as they begin their fresh start.
Getting Dwight Howard out of his game has been easy this season. Injuries aren’t the only reasons why he’s averaging his least amount of points (16.8 PPG) since his second NBA season and his least amount of rebounds (11.8 RPG) since his rookie season. He is simply frustrated in his new situation in Los Angeles and hasn’t clicked with his teammates.
The Celtics frustrated Howard to the best of their ability on Feb. 7 while limiting the big man to just nine points and nine rebounds. They made Howard look soft. They made him quit. Los Angeles will not win this game if its superstar center allows himself to become that frustrated again tonight.