Here is what you need to know before the Lakers continue their rivalry with the Boston Celtics.
The Lakers and Celtics have been going at it for more than 66 years, first meeting up on Nov. 9, 1948. Since then, Boston has compiled a 155-126 record against L.A. With a combined 33 NBA championships, the teams have often clashed in the Finals, as Boston won eight straight from 1959 to 1984 and the Lakers captured three of the following four.
Lakers head coach Byron Scott knows all about this rivalry, compiling a 28-20 record against the Celtics during his 11 seasons as a Laker. Scott, who helped L.A. two Finals wins over Boston in three tries, had the best game of his career against the Celtics on Feb. 14, 1988. The then-26-year-old went unloaded a 15-for-19 effort that netted him a career-high 38 points, while also picking up six assists and four steals in an L.A. win.
The Celtics beat L.A. on Dec. 5 in Boston, which puts them in line to win the season series for the first time since their last championship season in 2007-08. However, Boston has struggled at STAPLES Center, where it has lost each of its last three games against the Lakers by an average sore of 104-95.
After playing zero minutes due to coach's decision on Friday, Carlos Boozer will return to the Lakers' starting lineup for the first time since L.A. last played the Celtics on Dec. 5. Boozer's game improved in 33 games off the bench, shooting 2.9 percent better as a reserve (52.7 percent) than in 19 games with the starting five. Despite playing 2.4 fewer minutes (23.9), his points per game (12.6) increased by 0.2 and his rebounds (7.2) by 0.6 per game.
Boston added another weapon to its arsenal by trading for Isaiah Thomas, who is set to make his Celtics debut on Sunday. Thomas has already shredded the Lakers in four games with Phoenix this season, averaging 21.0 points on 65.2 percent shooting (30-for-46) with 5.0 assists. Defensively, he has been just as dangerous, as his 2.8 steals lead all opponents that have faced L.A. more than once.
Isaiah Thomas Shot Chart (vs. the Lakers This Season)
Boston be without its two best big men, as Jared Sullinger (left forefoot stress injury) is out for the season and Kelly Olynyk (right ankle sprain) also will not play. The pari combines for 25.5 points and 13.5 rebounds per game, with Sullinger leading the team in both categories. The Celtics also lose a solid floor-spacer in Olynyk, who ranks second among centers in 3-point percentage (35.3).
With the absence of both Sullinger and Olynyk, Tyler Zeller receives another opportunity to step into the spotlight. The first-year Celtic made his rivalry debut in monstrous fashion on Dec. 5, piling up 24 points and 14 rebounds — both of which are career highs — and shooting a blistering 10-for-11 from the field. Zeller joined DeAndre Jordan as the only players to shoot that well on that many attempts against L.A. since 1999, while also becoming the first Celtic to do so since Kevin Garnett in 2009.
Head coach Brad Stevens’ offensive sets rely heavily on handoffs, as Boston leads the league with 6.4 shots off handoffs per game. These attempts are netting the Celtics 7.0 points per game, which is 1.7 more than any other team. Avery Bradley has been the main beneficiary of this offense, leading the NBA in shots (1.9) and baskets (0.9) off handoffs.
Still, Boston has been putting up all kinds of shots, as it shoots more attempts from the field (87.9) than any other team. The Celtics also make the fifth-most baskets (39.1), but they are middle-of-the road in terms of points scored (13th, 100.8) and field goal percentage (17th, 44.5).
The Celtics have continuously altered the structure of their team, as 40 different players have been on their roster this season, with 20 playing at least one game once Thomas his the floor. Nevertheless, at 20-32, Boston remains just 1 1/2 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.