Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics: Preview, Analysis and Predictions

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Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics: Preview, Analysis and Predictions
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

There is no greater rivalry in the NBA than the one that the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers share. Because of the long and storied history these two teams have, it’s always exciting when they play each other—even in the regular season.

This year, the outcome of each of the two games between these franchises could be extremely significant. The C’s are just a shade above .500 (25-23) and sitting at the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Lake Show are scrapping to get back to that number (23-26) and are currently in 10th place out West.

Let’s take a closer look at the impending matchup between these rivals, including where to watch it, an updated injury report, some storylines and stars to keep an eye on, a prediction on the outcome and more.

 

Start Time: Thursday, Feb. 7, at 8 p.m. ET

Location: TD Garden, Boston, Mass.

TV Info: TNT

Live Stream: NBA League Pass (Paid subscription required)

 

Injury Report (via CBS)

Lakers

C Dwight Howard, Questionable, Shoulder

F Pau Gasol, Out, Foot

F Jordan Hill, Out, Hip

 

Celtics

G Rajon Rondo, Out, Knee

F Jarred Sullinger, Out, Back

 

Key Storyline: Injuries

USA TODAY Sports

Injuries have ravaged these two proud organizations, but that hasn’t stopped either from pulling out wins in the face of adversity.

For the C’s, things looked dismal when Rondo tore his ACL, but Boston has bounced back in a big way.

Not only did it snap a six-game losing streak, but it also has gone on to win five straight and has shown no signs of slowing down. Players like Jeff Green, Brandon Bass and Leandro Barbosa have stepped it up in a big way and will continue to be relied upon if the Celtics want to make a surprising postseason run.

Speaking of the playoffs, the Lakers direly need to get some players back on the floor if they are going to reach them in 2013.

Pau Gasol is now out for what looks to be the next six weeks due to a torn plantar fascia, while Dwight Howard is day-to-day after suffering a setback with his torn labrum.

It’s tough because the Lakers have won six of their last seven and were really clicking prior to Gasol going down on Tuesday night.

Kobe Bryant knows that time is of the essence and has recently urged Howard to play through the pain (according to ESPN’s staff.) L.A.’s window is closing and if it wants a chance to contend for a championship, it will need D12 to man up and get back in the lineup.

 

Key Matchup: Kobe Bryant vs. Paul Pierce

It’s always a battle when The Black Mamba and The Truth step onto the same basketball court.

These competitors match up extremely well and often wind up going back and forth trying to outdo the other throughout the course of the game.

While Bryant has the upper hands in wins by a small margin, Pierce plays up to his level and has found a way to neutralize the Mamba with his own scoring (you can see the history of all their showdowns here).

This marks the 13th year that Kobe and Pierce will meet, and it’s going to be just as exciting to watch as the time the young superstars did battle back in 2000.

As crafty veterans, both players know one another inside and out and should give the fans a treat as they go back and forth.

 

Predicted Starting Lineups and Reserves

Celtics Starting Lineup

G Avery Bradley

G Courtney Lee

F Paul Pierce

F Brandon Bass

C Kevin Garnett

 

Celtics Key Reserves

F Jeff Green

F Chris Wilcox

G Jason Terry

G Leandro Barbosa

 

Lakers Starting Lineup

G Steve Nash

G Kobe Bryant

F Metta World Peace

F Earl Clark

F Antawn Jamison*

 

Lakers Key Reserves

C Robert Sacre

G Steve Blake

G Jodie Meeks

G Chris Duhon

 

*Assuming Dwight Howard is inactive.

 

Prediction

As usual, expect an epic game between the Lakers and Celtics.

It doesn’t matter that both teams are banged up and limping into this contest, there is too much pride at stake for either to make an excuse. The remaining players on each roster are savvy vets and a few of the key contributors are quite familiar with each other from NBA Finals meetings in 2008 and 2010, on top of countless regular season affairs.

Which team will win Thursday night's game?

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With that said, we’re giving the edge to the Celtics, who are playing at home and have been surprisingly resilient without Rondo in the lineup.

They certainly won’t miss the superstar point guard’s defense against Steve Nash, as the Lakers elder PG isn’t much of a threat on the offensive end—outside of his deadly long-range shooting, but it doesn’t take an athlete to stop that.

It’s worth noting that the C’s did engage in a hard-fought battle against the Toronto Raptors Wednesday night and haven’t had much time to get adequate rest. Still, it won’t matter when their bitter rivals come to town, and we’re predicting that Boston edges L.A. with a dominant fourth-quarter performance.

 

Celtics 94 – Lakers 89

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