(Photo By: Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)

Lakers vs. Celtics: 3 Things to Know (1/23/18)

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

Here is what you need to know before the Lakers continue their rivalry with the Boston Celtics.

1) AC/JC is rockin’
Without Lonzo Ball over the last two games, Jordan Clarkson and Alex Caruso have stepped up as the playmakers that the Lakers have sorely needed.

L.A. started 0-8 without Ball in the lineup, but have now won back-to-back contests. That twin point guard lineup was key in their last victory, as the Lakers outscored New York by 26 in 29 minutes with both Clarkson and Caruso on the floor.

Clarkson was a fire-starter, constantly burning the Knicks with his pull-up jumper en route to 29 points. He and Caruso both excelled in pick-and-rolls and made plays in transition to lead the Lakers to a 20-point win.

They combined for 18 assists in that last game, and it will be interesting to see how much coach Luke Walton staggers the two compared to how long they share the court.

If their connection stays strong, it could pay dividends when Ball returns, as having two legit playmakers in the second unit can further open Walton’s playbook.

2) Randle is in monster mode
Julius Randle is coming off one of his most impressive performances yet, having completely overwhelmed the NBA’s top rim protector: Kristaps Porzings.

Randle dropped 27 points and 12 rebounds on Porzingis’ Knicks thanks to a formula of speed, strength and craft.

While Porzingis is as formidable as they come at the hoop, Randle was able to take the big man off the dribble and burst past him from the perimeter. And when he did have to meet the 7-foot-3 tower at the rim, he did an excellent job of finishing against an elite shot blocker.

Randle also fooled Porzingis on a couple post-ups and overpowered him for a few rebounds.

He certainly embraced the challenge and reminded everyone that his unique skill set can be a potential problem for pretty much every big in the game.

3) C’s start with D
The Celtics enter this game as the NBA’s top defensive team in about every metric: defensive efficiency, opponent field goal percentage, opponent 3-point percentage and opponent 3-pointers.

Their 98.0 points allowed per game rank second in the league, and their roster is full of plus defenders, particularly Marcus Smart, Al Horford and Jaylen Brown.

On the other side of the floor, Kyrie Irving is as dangerous with the ball in his hands as anybody in the game. Tabbed a starter for next month’s All-Star Game in L.A., Irving is coming off a 40-point display in which he scorched Orlando with his step-back and pull-up jumpers.

Meanwhile, Brown and Jayson Tatum have played beyond their young age, while Horford is among the league’s best big men when it comes to passing and 3-point shooting.

It will certainly be a challenge for the Lakers, as they look to defend home court in their rivals’ annual visit.

Injury Report
Lakers:
Lonzo Ball (sore left knee) is out. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (right Achilles tendon strain) is questionable. Brandon Ingram (mild left ankle sprain) is probable.
Celtics: Gordon Hayward (left ankle rehab) is out.

Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: TNT
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Gold
Location: STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, California

Click here to view game notes for this contest.

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