January 23, 2018, 10:34 am
The Lakers (17-29) renew their rivalry with the Boston Celtics (34-13) in a nationally televised game on Tuesday.
At the moment, these are two teams on the opposite end of the spectrum as the Celtics are in first place in the Eastern Conference and have a fully stocked cupboard as far as future assets are concerned. The Lakers have a losing record, very few assets, and are hoping this summer lends their franchise direction. Boston is in a bit of a recent skid, losing three in a row and threatening to lose four in a row for the first time in two years.
This offseason, the Celtics cashed in some of their assets to trade for Kyrie Irving as well as used their hard-earned cap space to sign Gordon Hayward. Before the Celtics were able to reap any benefits from their moves, they watched in horror as Hayward suffered a gruesome ankle injury on opening night, ending his season before he played a single complete game for the storied franchise.
However, coach Brad Stevens has instilled sound defensive principles in Boston, helping to lead them to the third best record in the NBA.
The offense runs through Irving who is averaging 24.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.7 3-pointers while shooting 47.6 percent from the floor and 88.4 percent from the line. He is a true MVP candidate in his first season in Boston.
One of the silver linings to the Hayward injury has been the additional playing time afforded No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum. He is tallying 13.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 0.9 blocks while shooting 49.3 percent from the field, 81.7 percent from the free throw line and 45.1 percent from 3-point range. It’s hard to imagine that the Celtics were able to accrue Tatum, a strong candidate for Rookie of the Year, and a future first round pick from the 76ers for the rights to Markelle Fultz, who has not been able to spend any time on the court for Philadelphia.
The Lakers have won two games in a row, which is more impressive considering they have been missing their starting backcourt of Lonzo Ball and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for both of those contests. What is even more exciting for Laker fans is that the team has won six of their last eight, while playing much better defense and showing significant progress.
Jordan Clarkson has been stellar for Los Angeles during this two-game streak, averaging 31.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 8.5 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting a blistering 68.4 percent from the field.
Julius Randle is also coming off a huge game in which he outplayed Kristaps Porzingis, accumulating 27 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and one block.
One pleasant surprise for the Lakers was reserve point guard Alex Caruso who played a career-high 31 minutes while accruing nine points, eight assists, four rebounds and two steals. He severely outplayed Tyler Ennis and may have earned a larger role going forward.
- The Celtics are an elite defensive team ranking first in both defensive rating (99.7) and defensive efficiency (.989) while the Lakers are 10th in rating (104.7) and eleventh in defensive efficiency (1.040). Los Angeles is fourth in defensive rating over the last eight contests (99.0), during which they have won six games.
- The Lakers turn the ball over 16.4 times per game (29th) vs. the Celtics who only turn the ball over 14.2 times per game (12th).
- Los Angeles is shooting a league worst 68.8 percent from the free throw line while Boston shoots 76.4 percent (15th).
- The Lakers convert 33.1 percent from 3-point range (15th) compared to the Celtics who make 36.5 percent of their shots from 3-point range.
- Los Angeles leads the league in pace at 103.24 possessions per 48 minutes vs. Boston who averages 97.95 possessions per 48 minutes (21st).
Projected Starting Rosters
Tyler Ennis (PG)
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SG)
Brandon Ingram (SF)
Julius Randle (PF)
Brook Lopez (C)
Kyrie Irving (PG)
Jaylen Brown (SG)
Jayson Tatum (SF)
Aron Baynes (PF)
Al Horford (C)
Lonzo Ball (knee) – OUT
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (Achilles) – ACTIVE
Brandon Ingram (ankle) – ACTIVE
Gordon Hayward (ankle) – OUT
Time: 7:30 PM PST, 10:30 PM EST
Television: TNT, NBC SPORTS BOSTON, TNT-SAP,
Radio: 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES, 98.5 THE SPORTS HUB