The Los Angeles Lakers finished their long road trip at 3-3. All things considered, that’s not bad. You can probably blame some of their losses on being shorthanded while another loss was just incredibly wild. Still, it’s an encouraging sign when they beat Milwaukee on the road. It shows that they can stay with and beat the elite teams.
And another elite team is coming to play them at Crypto.com Arena. Laker fans are familiar with the Boston Celtics, I’m sure. They have the best record at 21-7. They are in the race with the Lakers to see who gets to 18 NBA championships first as we all know that both the Lakers and Celtics have 17 championship banners each.
The Boston Celtics made the NBA Finals last year before succumbing to the Golden State Warriors in 6 games. They’re basically running it back with the same core. But they also have a new coach in 34-year-old Joe Mazzulla, who took over the disgraced Ime Udoka this season and is doing a wonderful job keeping the team on track for a second straight NBA Finals berth.
The Celtics boast the most devastating duo in the league in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Tatum is an offensive tour de force, averaging just under 30 points a game. Brown. Brown isn’t far behind at 26.6 per. And they’re two of the best two-way players in the game today. Tatum is considered an early favorite for the newly-minted Michael Jordan Trophy (the Most Valuable Player award).
Boston still has Marcus Smart, last year’s Defensive Player of the Year. Derrick White, last year’s midseason acquisition, is shooting as well from three (.410) as he is defending. Grant Williams has been an outstanding 3-and-D player for the Celtics over the years and this season (.458 from three!) has been no exception. Sam Hauser didn’t play much last season but has become a great asset for them, shooting .438 from behind the arc.
And the Celtics made some great acquistions, too. Malcolm Brogdon (14.3 PPG) came over from the Pacers to give the Celtics a massive boost from the bench. Ex-Clipper superstar Blake Griffin gives them experience and hustle in the twilight of his career.
Al Horford continues to provide them great minutes as a starting center but he’s out against the Lakers due to personal reasons. And it’s amazing that this team has this record without Robert Williams III all season.
The Celtics will rain threes on teams. They’re second in made threes, attempted threes, and percentage. They also have the best net rating in the league (that’s offensive rating minus defensive rating) and are first in aforementioned offensive rating (reminder that it’s points per possession; also, they have the best offense in NBA history thus far). They’re barely in the Top 10 in defense but you know they’re capable of being so much better with their personnel. And remember that Robert Williams III, their defensive anchor, has still not played.
So the Lakers definitely have a huge challenge. But they have a few things going for them. The Lakers always get up for the Celtics; they actually split their season series last year. They won against Boston (albeit without Jaylen Brown) in December of last year. Also, the Celtics are playing a second game of a back-to-back. And Boston is a bit vulnerable as they lost against the Warriors on Saturday and the Clippers on Monday. So they’re tired and reeling at the moment.
Still, the Celtics are 21-7 for a reason. We’ll see how the Lakers do against Tatum and Brown. Then again, we’ll see how the Celtics stop Anthony Davis, who is having possibly the best stretch of his career. And LeBron James can still be the best player on the court at times in his advanced NBA age.
The Lakers will definitely need help from the frenetic Russell Westbrook, the explosive Lonnie Walker IV, and the clever Austin Reaves. The Lakers really rely a ton on LeBron and Davis; they need their supporting cast to step up, especially against these Boston boys. Dennis Schröder played part of his last season with Boston so a little revenge could be on his mind. Wenyen Gabriel will continue to miss time due to his shoulder injury.
It might end up becoming a shootout. After their 2-10 start, the Lakers have been a Top 5 offense starting from Nov. 13 (when they won against Brooklyn). So we could be in for a show in more ways than one. This is, after all, one of the classic rivalries in all of sports. Heck, in all of history. It’s right up there with Batman versus Joker. Rocky Balboa versus Apollo Creed. Dawson Leery versus Pacey Witter. Lakers versus Celtics have been at it for decades and their feud continues to endure today.
We’ll see who comes out on top in their 297th regular season match-up.