After a seventh consecutive loss, head coach Byron Scott declared that he may change the entire Los Angeles Lakers starting five. While he has put a premium on developing younger players, he cannot continue starting games with the majority of the better offensive players on the bench. A change to the starting lineup can be a breath of fresh air against an especially beatable Boston Celtics team that will be trying to assimilate their newly acquired guard, Isaiah Thomas.
Tyler Zeller has gotten all the minutes he can handle while Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk have been sidelined and he has performed very well. He is coming off of a 22 point outing against the Kings and is a more capable offensive player than he is often given credit for. He is averaging 9.9 points and 5.5 rebounds in a limited 20.3 minutes per game while shooting 55.7 percent from the field. The Lakers can struggle guarding big men, especially with their recent rotations and Byron Scott will need to think long and hard about giving Ed Davis more minutes as he is best equipped to defend his former North Carolina teammate.
Brandon Bass starts at the four and has continued to be a serviceable NBA rotation player this season. That being said, he is fairly underwhelming when getting extended burn. And if the 37 minutes he logged against the Kings on Friday are any indication, the Lakers will see plenty of Bass tonight. He is an undersized power forward who has a tendency to look for shots in the paint despite having a decent mid range shot. The strength of his game lies in his off-ball movement, as he is actually better at creating shots for himself without than ball than with it, so his defender will need to be aware of him at all times.
A former second overall pick, Evan Turner has become little more than an afterthought in his fourth year in the league. He has always been a capable multi-category producer dating back to his days as a triple-double machine at Ohio State. However, he seems to be able to do everything less effectively against NBA defenses. His averages of 8.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.7 assists demonstrate his versatility, but his 41.8 percent shooting and average of 2.4 turnovers are a testament to his struggles adapting to professional defenses. He is not a major scoring threat and the Lakers should seek to simply bottle up his playmaking as he is still capable in that department and has been particularly hot over his last five, dishing out an average of 7.6 dimes a night.
Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart are the incumbent backcourt starters and will probably get the nod tonight. Both players share similar reputations as tenacious defenders with developing offensive games. Having been in the league longer, Bradley is further along in his development, posting a respectable 13.7 points per game this season. He has also shown some explosiveness as a scorer and will look to continue a hot streak after dropping 28 points on the Kings. Smart on the other hand, has quite a ways to go. He has been very inefficient from the field in his rookie season, shooting just 36.6 percent. With him, the Lakers need to be aware of his defensive presence as he is still the same feisty defender and capable thief that he was at Oklahoma State.
Acquired via trade this past Thursday, Isaiah Thomas joins a Celtics team as the unquestioned best offensive player and potentially best overall player. The diminutive guard has shown an incredible ability to score, despite standing just 5’9”. Even while playing in a very crowded backcourt rotation in Phoenix, Thomas posted averages of 15.2 points and 3.7 assists. He is going to be a matchup nightmare for a Lakers team that really struggles to guard quick point guards. The best the Lakers can do is attempt to take advantage of the size mismatch they’ll have on the offensive end.
Keys to Victory:
Attack the Bigs: With injuries to multiple guys on their front line, the Celtics are very thin in the big man department. Brandon Bass and Tyler Zeller logged 37 and 31 minutes in the last contest and that was in a game that Zeller finished with five fouls. Suffice it to say that getting these two into foul trouble will force Celtics coach Brad Stevens into going small or playing the likes of Shavlik Randolph and either of these results will be very beneficial to the Lakers.
Offensive Continuity: A change in rotations can very much fix this issue as the Lakers are prone to going on major lulls on offense in any given game. Having a scorer like Nick Young come off the bench is only a luxury that is afforded to teams with depth. The Lakers are not one of those teams. Carlos Boozer also logged a healthy DNP in the last contest and while the desire to play the young guys more minutes is understandable, the current starting lineup is laughable from an offensive standpoint and needs to be rebalanced.
Heading into tonight’s game, Lakers are 2.5-point underdogs against the Celtics via Sportsbook.ag.
Los Angeles Lakers (13-41) vs. Boston Celtics (20-32)
6:30 PM PST, February 22, 2015
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Celtics Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Avery Bradley
SG: Marcus Smart
SF: Evan Turner
PF: Brandon Bass
C: Tyler Zeller
Key Reserves: PG: Isaiah Thomas, SF: Jae Crowder
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: Ryan Kelly
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Jordan Hill
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