The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off a 109-104 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Tuesday night. Julius Randle had a huge game finishing with 23 points and 18 rebounds. D’Angelo Russell chipped in with 23 points of his own. The Lakers were within a basket as the final minute approached, but late three-pointers by Kemba Walker and Marvin Williams proved to be too much for the Lakers to overcome. Tonight they welcome the Boston Celtics to Staples Center.
The Celtics are coming off an impressive 103-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers. All-Star Isaiah Thomas led the team with 31 points and five assists. The Celtics look like they are set for the future with Thomas and Al Horford as the team’s cornerstones.
The combination of Thomas and Avery Bradley hold down the backcourt for the Celtics. Thomas’ play this season has been excellent. He has ascended himself into possible MVP talks. He is averaging 29.6 points and 6.2 assists per game. Against the Lakers back in early February, he torched them for 38 points, many of them coming in the fourth quarter. If the Lakers want a chance to win this game they need to do a really good job of defending him to keep him in check.
Bradley has become a solid offensive player since entering the league. He is currently averaging 17.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. What makes him a good all-around player is his ability to play defense at an elite level. He is often tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best player. Whoever he is guarding will have to work hard on the offensive end tonight.
Off the bench, the Celtics have the trio of Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier. All three are players who can impact a game significantly. Back against the Lakers in February, both Smart and Brown made shots they do not normally make and that ultimately made the difference in the game. The Lakers need to make sure neither has an out of ordinary performance that affects the outcome of the game. Rozier is a very active player and must be accounted for when he is on the floor.
Russell and Nick Young have done a really good job as the primary starters for the Lakers. Russell continues to prove he can carry more the scoring load. He has shown flashes that he can score with the best of them, but he must prove that he can do it consistently. If he can play the way he did against Charlotte, the Lakers a have a better chance of winning tonight’s game.
Young has also been playing well this season. If the Lakers want to keep up with some of the better teams in the league, he must be able to score the ball. His defense has also been effective all season. He might be asked to defend Thomas tonight, so it is extremely important to make things difficult for him.
Clarkson has been playing better off the bench as the sixth man. He still has to limit his turnovers and be more efficient. The Lakers cannot afford for ill-advised shots and costly turnovers from him. The newly acquired Tyler Ennis should see more playing time tonight. Even though he should not be counted to supply much offense, he will be expected to play some solid defense.
The frontcourt of the Celtics features Al Horford, Jae Crowder, and Amir Johnson. The most important player out of three is clearly Horford. He is playing very well in his first season with the Celtics. He is averaging 14 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He is extremely solid down in the post and can step out and make midrange shots. Julius Randle will have his hands full tonight defending him.
Crowder and Johnson are excellent defensive players who provide enough offensively for the Celtics to play well. Both possess good length that helps disrupt passing lanes and shot attempts. They will pressure whoever they are guarding into difficult situations. The bigs of the Lakers must come ready to compete against the frontcourt of Boston.
Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko come off the bench for the Celtics. Both are capable of knocking down mid and long range shots. They also are not afraid to battle down low with some of the bigger and stronger players on other teams.
The lineup of Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, and Tarik Black has been playing well. Ingram has shown flashes of his potential. Even though he struggles with consistency at times, it is important for him to gain all the experience he can while in the starting lineup.
Randle has had a good season but also struggles with consistency. If he can play the way he did against the Hornets on Tuesday night, the Lakers will be a much better team and will reach their goal of being a top team in the Western Conference sooner rather than later.
Black has shown that he can contribute without providing much on offense. Against the Hornets, he finished with 11 points and five rebounds. When he can contribute offensively, it is a huge bonus for the Lakers. The team needs him to do more of the same tonight against a good Boston frontcourt.
Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac, and Corey Brewer come off the bench for the Lakers. All give the team a little boost of energy and solid defense when they are on the court. All three need to play well for the Lakers to have a chance to win.
3 Keys to Victory
Contain Isaiah Thomas
As stated beforehand Thomas torched the Lakers for 38 points in their last meeting. If the Lakers want a chance to win tonight’s matchup they must do a better job of playing defense on him. They cannot let him get into the teeth of the defense and create open shots for his teammates.
Rebound The Ball
Boston currently sits in the bottom half in rebounding rankings. The Lakers must not allow the Celtics to gain extra possessions because that can lead to easier basket opportunities. The Lakers do have a bit of a size advantage, and they must use it when rebounding the ball.
Share The Ball
The Lakers have done a better job of spreading the ball around as of late. It has led to being more efficient on offense and easier basket opportunities. It also makes the defense chase the ball instead of standing still preparing for the next play. If the Lakers can do that tonight, they should be able to keep track with one of the more potent offenses in the league.
Los Angeles Lakers (19-42) Vs. Boston Celtics (39-22)
7:30 P.M. PST, March 3, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Celtics Starting Lineup:
PG: Isaiah Thomas
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Jae Crowder
PF: Amir Johnson
C: Al Horford
Key Reserves: Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Nick Young
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle
C: Tarik Black
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Corey Brewer, Ivica Zubac, Tyler Ennis