AP Photo/Charles Krupa
It's Celtics vs. Lakers for the first time during the 2011-12 season.Basketball's finest rivalry takes center stage when the Los Angeles Lakers (14-11, 3-9 away) visit the Boston Celtics (14-10, 10-6 home) on Thursday night at TD Garden (8 p.m., TNT). To preview the matchup, we play a game of 3-on-3 with our good friends, the Kamenetzky brothers, Brian and Andy, who host the Land O'Lakers blog at ESPN Los Angeles.
1. What matchup are you looking most forward to seeing?
B.Kamenetzky: Pau Gasol vs. Kevin Garnett. Pau’s output against what will surely be an extra yappy, extra chest-puffy K.G. will get the attention, and Gasol needs to produce more efficiently (eight of last 12 games with FG% at 45 or below). If he doesn’t, LAL will have to find alternative options against a top end defensive squad. Meanwhile, Garnett’s scoring has picked up, but Gasol has held opposing PF’s to a respectable PER (14). If one goes off at the expense of the other, a victory for his team is highly likely.
A.Kamenetzky: Paul Pierce vs. Metta World Peace. There have been signs, albeit inconsistent, of MWP getting his defensive mojo back. Most recently in Denver, he did the lion's share of working limiting Danilo Gallinari to just six points. Of course, there are also games where his defense is as ineffective as his offense, which renders MWP a total non-factor. The Lakers need Paul Pierce kept in check, and much of that responsibility falls on MWP. We'll see if he's up for the task against a potential All-Star.
Forsberg: Kobe Bryant vs. Mickael Pietrus: We sorta know how the starters match up, so I'm interested to see if Pietrus can be a Tony Allen-like Kobe stopper off the bench. Pietrus has been spectacular for Boston since being picked up on Christmas Eve after the Suns released him. And Pietrus supposedly said this summer that Bryant wanted him on the Lakers, so that adds a bit of intrigue. (Runner-up matchup: Troy Murphy vs. Anybody. Really, he's one of the Lakers' top reserves this season?!)
2. Name a factor or two that could swing the game in either direction.
B.Kamenetzky: In those rare moments a little light escapes from L.A.’s black holes, they have a chance. Via HoopsStats.com, the Lakers are 29th in point production at the point (12.9 ppg), and dead last at small forward (11.6, dropping to 8.8 on the road) and off the bench (20.2 overall, 18.2 on the road). Maybe it’s Derek Fisher hitting a few shots, or Metta World Peace outperforming his 32.6 percent mark from the floor, or Matt Barnes ending his slump of the bench. If they can widen the Big Three’s margin for error, the Lakers can win.
A.Kamenetzky: The offensive glass, specifically Boston's: Several Lakers identified the defensive glass as a factor in their struggles outside Staples. As a team without even semi-consistent scoring beyond the big three, L.A. can't allow opponents multiple chances at buckets. The Celtics are even less prolific, but given extra rope, could outpace a squad to cold spells. By any measurement, he Celtics are bad on the offensive glass, so the Lakers have nobody to blame but themselves if this happens.
Forsberg: It's always about rebounding when these two teams meet. As usual, the Lakers are one of the best (2nd in total rebounds) and Boston is one of the worst (28th). Boston has been better on the glass during its recent winning streak, but the Lakers are a different beast. Also, turnovers should play a key role. The Lakers are 30th in the NBA in forcing them, but Boston isn't immune to giving the ball away in bunches.
3. Which team needs the win more?
B.Kamenetzky: The Lakers, in a walk. The C’s are on a roll, and because the Eastern Conference’s eight seed will be occupied by some Washington Generals clone, Boston doesn’t need to worry about making the postseason, despite the slow start. L.A. almost surely makes it, too, but have had monumental problems on the road. Losing Thursday means three bad outcomes against the four good teams they’ll see on this Grammy road trip, reinforcing the idea they can’t d
A.Kamenetzky: L.A. The Eastern Conference's bottom half offers Boston an easier playoff entrance, but Danny Ainge has already mused openly about the possibility of blowing up the big three. Their handwriting is on the wall either way. The Lakers, however, are trying to squeeze every ounce of juice as a team built around Kobe. I don't think they're a legit contender, but they can't disprove my opinion without making the playoffs. Every win or loss matters.
Forsberg: Lakers. The Celtics have won a season-high five straight (and nine of 10 overall) and all the panicked "blow it up" chatter from earlier this season has quickly morphed into light-hearted speculation about where Paul Pierce ranks among the Celtics greats (and whether he can catch John Havlicek for the top spot on the team's scoring list). Sure, Boston could use a statement win against a top rival, but clearly Los Angeles needs one more at the moment.