Thursday, FEBRUARY 9, 2012
Lakers - Celtics El Clasico
by Matt Becker
Fans in Los Angeles and Boston delight in the rivalry between the Lakers and Celtics.
When these franchises square off in the regular season, however, the hometown fans have seldom seen their team win lately.
Struggling mightily away from Staples Center, the Lakers hope to break out of their road funk with a visit to TD Garden on Thursday night to face the Celtics, who look to extend their season-high winning streak to six.
Los Angeles is 11-2 at home but 3-9 on the road, and arrives in Boston after dropping two of the first three contests on a season-high six-game road trip. Much of the road struggles for the Lakers (14-11) stem from a defense that is allowing an average of 97.2 points compared to 85.2 at home.
Although the Celtics (14-10) have won five straight and nine of 10, Los Angeles might have better luck keeping Boston's somewhat passive offense in check. The Celtics like to keep opponents from running and are among the league's top teams in points allowed at 86.5 per game, but they also have one of the lowest-scoring offenses (90.8 ppg).
Taking the court at TD Garden also could work toward the Lakers' advantage.
Los Angeles has won three straight and five of six in Boston during the regular season. That success has not bridged to the playoffs, however, as the Lakers lost five of six games there in the 2008 and 2010 NBA finals. The Celtics captured the title in '08 and the Lakers won it in seven games two years later.
In the lone meeting in Boston last season, Kobe Bryant scored 23 and Pau Gasol finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds in a 92-86 victory Feb. 10. Eleven days earlier at Staples Center, Paul Pierce scored 32 and Kevin Garnett had 18 points and 13 boards to withstand a 41-point performance from Bryant in a 109-96 victory. That was the Celtics' third victory in four regular-season games versus the Lakers at Staples Center.
Bryant and Pierce each got a significant accomplishment out of the way before Thursday's showdown.
Though Bryant passed Shaquille O'Neal for fifth place on the NBA's career scoring list with 28,601, he missed nine of 10 shots in the fourth quarter Monday at Philadelphia and scored only four of his 28 points after halftime in a 95-90 loss.
Two days earlier, the Lakers were tied at Utah entering the fourth only to lose 96-87.
"I don't think we need to change much," forward Metta World Peace said. "We have the guys to finish the games. Right now there is not a lot of consistency, so once we start playing with a little more consistency, the play in the last quarter, we will win more consistently. We just have to stick with it."
The Celtics have trailed for less than five minutes through all of their fourth quarters during the five-game win streak.
Pierce finished with 15 points in Tuesday's 94-84 victory over Charlotte to overtake Larry Bird for No. 2 on Boston's all-time scoring list. Pierce reached the milestone early in the third quarter and now has 21,797 points, six more than Bird.
"It was a relief," said Pierce, averaging 22.6 points and 7.4 assists in the last 10 games. "So much was hanging over me the last couple of days. Just hearing about it and knowing that you've got a game to play."
A key for Boston could be keeping Los Angeles from getting extra possessions on rebounds. While the Celtics are one of the league's worst rebounding teams at 38.8 per game, the Lakers are among the best at 44.8.
Gasol has three straight double-doubles, grabbing 44 boards in that span with 12 coming on offense. Eight of Bynum's 20 rebounds Monday came at the offensive end as he posted a fourth consecutive double-double, averaging 20.8 points and 13.3 boards in that span.
Click Here To Watch Live Stream!