The Boston Celtics will welcome the LA Lakers at the TD Garden next Friday night (07/02) in another match between the two greatest rivals in the NBA.
The hosts have been playing consistently in the last few matches and have won four of their last five games. They only lost to the defending champions, Golden State Warriors, at home last week (111-115).
The Celtics have been victorious in seven of their last eight games, while they will face the likes of the New York Knicks, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Cleveland Cavaliers prior to the clash with the Lakers.
With that in mind, they have the opportunity to claim at least two more victories, while the match against the Thunder will likely be a close derby.
Boston decimated the Charlotte Hornets at home on Wednesday night (126-94) and improved their record to 32-19.
On the other hand, the LA Lakers have struggled on both ends of the floor, since Lebron James got injured on Christmas Day.
Without their leader, the team dropped from the fourth to the ninth place in the standings, so his return to action was paramount for LA.
The “King” returned against the LA Clippers on Thursday night (31/1) and led his team to the win in overtime (120-123).
James came close to the triple-double (24 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists) and showed how painful his absence was for the squad. He missed 17 games, due to a groin injury.
The Lakers have won only twice in their last five games and have lost six times in their last 10 matches. They now have a very difficult schedule ahead of them, with nine games on the road and only one at home against the Houston Rockets (on February 22).
Prior to the bout with the Celtics, the Lakers will visit Oakland and Indiana to play against the Warriors and the Pacers, respectively, so it is likely they will enter the game against Boston on a two-game losing streak.
Both teams have identical numbers offensively, as they average 112.4 (12th, Boston) and 112.3 (13th, LA Lakers) points, respectively.
At the same time, the Celtics have the fourth best defense in the league, allowing their opponents to score 105.6 points per game, whereas the Lakers play mediocre defensively, conceding 112.1 points per game (22nd in the NBA).
The hosts will rely on their defence to set the tone and be a game changer. A number close to the 106 points they allow per game, will give them the upper hand.
On the contrary, the visitors will be expecting from James to make the difference with his all-around game, yet they have to play tough defence, if they want to remain competitive until the end of the game.
James leads the team in points (27.2) and rebounds (8.5), while he dishes 7.2 assists per game.
Kyle Kuzma (18.9 ppg), Rajon Rondo (8.9 points, team-high 7.6 assists) and Lance Stephenson (7.5 ppg, 40.1% in three-pointers) also play at high standards for the squad.
For Boston, Kyrie Irving is the undisputed leader (23.7 points and 6.9 assists), with Al Horford (12.5 points, 6.7 boards), Jayson Tatum (16.3 points, 6.2 rebounds) and Gordon Hayward (10.7 ppg, 4.6 boards and 3.4 assists per game) as the supporting cast.
Boston is not facing any injuries, while the Lakers are dealing with the absence of Lonzo Ball, who is out for four to six weeks with an ankle injury.
Boston is currently tied with the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference standings, at 32-19. For their part, the Lakes are ninth (27-25), one game behind the Clippers (28-24), who are currently eighth in the Western Conference.
Boston has lost only six times at home (21-6), while the Lakers have lost 13 times in 24 road games this season (11-13). With that in mind, the hosts will try to take advantage of their home court and rally past their arch rivals.
Although the latest NBA betting odds have not been out yet, a tough game is expected on Friday night (07/02). The Celtics will rely on their defence and great home record in order to defeat LeBron James and the LA Lakers.