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W2W4: C's vs. Lakers (Game 17 of 82)

The Boston Celtics (5-11, 3-7 home) host the Los Angeles Lakers (5-14, 3-6 away) on Friday night at TD Garden (7:30 p.m., CSN). Here's what to watch for:

Rivalry renewed? Celtics rookie Marcus Smart’s eyes shot wide when a reporter mentioned Friday’s visit from the Los Angeles Lakers. “The rivalry,” said Smart. “We got 17 [NBA championships], they got 16. Everybody knows that. I’m excited.” Smart wasn’t throwing any barbs, he was just stating facts. Smart will get his first taste of the NBA’s most storied rivalry on Friday night and, well, at least someone's excited. There's not much buzz behind this Celtics-Lakers game as each team navigates their respective rebuilding process. Regardless, it's still Boston vs. L.A. and both sides should have a little extra juice for this one.

Lakers in focus: The root of Los Angeles' struggles? No, it's not all those shots by Bryant (the Lakers still rank in the top 10 for offensive rating). It's a woeful defense that ranks dead last in the NBA in allowing a staggering 112.4 points per 100 possessions. The Lakers take good care of the ball (fifth in turnover percentage) and that helps their offensive efficiency. Bryant helps them rank near the top of the league in free-throw rate as well. Trouble lies at the opposite end and Boston absolutely must take advantage of how often the Lakers put opponents at the charity stripe.

Loose Balls: As STATS LLC notes, Los Angeles is 4-1 against the Eastern Conference while the Celtics are 0-7 against the West. ... More from STATS: The Lakers have won six of seven in the series and seven of nine in Boston. Bryant is averaging 28.8 points over his last 13 regular-season trips to TD Garden, shooting 51.8 percent in the past three. ... The Celtics didn't play particularly well against Detroit, but emerged with a much-needed win in overtime. Boston has a chance for only its second winning streak of the season (and would match their season long from back-to-back wins on Nov. 7-8). ... Boston has slipped to 19th in offensive rating, while still ranking 26th in defensive rating. ... Los Angeles' defensive rating improves by more than 13 points per 100 possessions when Bryant is off the court. The Lakers are plus-5 in net differential without him; but minus-11.1 with him.

(Read full game preview)