The Celtics take on the LA Lakers tonight at the Staples Center in LA (Tipoff at 9:30EST). This isn’t exactly the Lakers/Celtics rivalry we’ve all been accustomed to in the past, as tonight’s match-up pits two rebuilding franchises which are shells of their former selves.
The Celtics (20-32) are coming off a loss to the Kings on Friday in which the Celtics held tough, but couldn’t find any answer for Center Demarcus Cousins, who scored 32 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. The Lakers (13-41) hold the NBA’s third worst record and have lost seven straight games and are 2-18 over their last twenty.
The Lakers will be without star Kobe Bryant, who had season ending rotator cuff surgery on January 28th. The Lakers have gone 1-10 in Bryant’s absence and are looking towards next year and the NBA lottery at this point.
Lakers coach Byron Scott has used nine different lineups this year, but it hasn’t worked to his advantage -The Lakers lost to Brooklyn at home on Friday, yet Scott is still looking to tweak things further.
“The one thing I want to do is make sure these guys stay hungry,” Scott told the Lakers’ official website. “I don’t want guys to feel comfortable that they’re going to play 25, 30 minutes a night. Also, I might just play all 12 guys and it’ll be a little over 20 minutes for each guy.”
In Bryant’s absence, rookie Jordan Clarkson has been one lone bright spot for the Lakers. Since entering the starting lineup, Clarkson is averaging 13.3 points, 3.9 assists, 3.1 boards and 1.2 steals in 30 minutes per game, and there’s no reason why he won’t keep improving as the season progresses. Big man Ed Davis scored 16 points on 8-of-10 shooting with 14 rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block in 28 minutes off the bench on Friday against the Nets and will put pressure on Zeller down low.
In their last matchup on December 5th, Boston beat the Lakers 113-96 on a night in which Rajon Rondo and Kobe Bryant were both still around. With those two not on the floor, things will look a little bit different in the clash of these rebuilding clubs. Celtics center Tyler Zeller was a beast in their last meeting (with 24 points and 14 rebounds) and there’s a good chance Zeller has another strong game as it was announced today that Jared Sullinger will be out for the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his foot.
Newly acquired point guard Isaiah Thomas is still questionable for tonight’s game as he flew to Boston on Friday for a physical.
The Lakers are not a very good team, but the Celtics are probably only a step or two above the Lakers at this point. The loss of Sullinger is crushing news for the Celtics, but he was expected to be out tonight anyways. If Thomas plays, I’d expect the Celtics to have a much better chance of winning this game. I still expect the Celtics to win, but it will probably be a close game. Oddsmakers have the Celtics as 1.5 point favorites.
Prediction: Celtics 103, Lakers 97
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