Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics Preview: Five Pregame Observations

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Los Angeles Lakers 23 - 26 at Boston Celtics 25 - 23

First meeting of the season

The Boston Celtics will face the Los Angeles Lakers tonight at the TD Garden. This will be the first meeting of the season between the NBA’s most prolific franchises. Tonight’s game should be a good battle between the two teams. Both are looking to overcome early season adversity and find a groove that will propel them back into this season’s championship picture.

The Celtics enter tonight’s game looking to maintain their momentum after a 99-95 victory over the Raptors last night in Toronto that pushed their winning streak to five games. For the Lakers this will be another opportunity for them to establish the consistency that will get them back into the Western Conference’s playoff picture. They are coming of an impressive Tuesday night victory against the Nets in Brooklyn which saw them control the game late in the fourth quarter for the second straight time, something they have struggled to do all season.

While this should be a tight game, it is an opportunity for the Celtics to get a win at home, especially with both of the Lakers premier big men Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol out with injuries. Nevertheless, in order for them to do that, they will have to be successful at the following tasks.

Run the floor

The Celtics should be able to get easy fast break points against the Lakers, who have been slow in transition all season long. Look for their four guards Courtney Lee, Avery Bradley, Jason Terry and Leandro Barbosa to push the ball quickly up the floor every chance they get. The fast pace should also benefit Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox. They run the floor well and should be able to get some easy buckets tonight if they get out ahead of the pack on the break.

Rebound the basketball 

In order for the Celtics to run the floor they will need to rebound the basketball. With Gasol out and Howard a game time decision with an injured shoulder the Celtics should have an advantage on the glass. However, it will have to done by committee with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce leading the way. Since the injuries to Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger both Garnett and Pierce have picked up the rebounding slack and expect them to continue this tonight.

Move the ball in the half court

The Celtics have a tendency to play one on one basketball late in games, which leaves four men standing around watching their teammate dribble the ball excessively while looking for his shot. This trait slows their momentum and has allowed their opponents to get back into games. To avoid this they will have to share the basketball, with players cutting to the basket instead of standing around. Bradley, Green and Lee all move well without the ball and they should be able to cut to the basket and receive a pass that leads to easy points in the paint.

Defend the Perimeter

The Celtics have been inconsistent at doing this throughout the season, but they will need to keep the Lakers perimeter players, especially Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, out of the paint tonight to be successful. Bryant and Nash have made their careers on getting into the paint and cutting up teams by creating scoring opportunities close to the basket. Much of the responsibility to keep them from doing that will fall on the four guards mentioned earlier: Bradley, Lee, Barbosa and Terry. If they fail to lock down the perimeter it could be a long night for the Celtics.

Aggressiveness from Jeff Green on both ends of the floor

Jeff Green’s play has been a big reason the Celtics have prospered since the injury bug hit them hard earlier this month. His defense has been exceptional and his willingness to attack the basket on offense has created big leads for the Celtics in the first half of recent games. Continuing this effort should allow the Celtics to build an early lead and propel them to another victory.

Summary

This is a good opportunity for the Celtics to get a victory tonight. They Lakers are ailing and the Celtics should be able to take advantage of their weakness in transition and on the glass to get the ball in the open court for easy baskets. Nonetheless, the Celtics will have to play good perimeter defense and move the ball in the half court to beat a Lakers team led by Kobe Bryant.