Short Handed Celtics Host Their Hated Rivals

Los Angeles Lakers (35-16) at Boston Celtics (38-13)
Thursday, February 10
8:00 PM ET
Regular Season Game #52, Home Game #29
Radio:  WEEI, KSPN
TD Garden
Referees:  Scott Foster, Derrick Collins,  Scott Wall 
Just 11 days after the Celtics beat the Lakers in LA, these two rivals meet once again, this time in Boston.   In their first meeting, Perk was just coming back and came off the bench while Shaq started.  Shaq failed to score, picked up five fouls and recorded two turnovers in 12:42 of action but he did pull down 6 rebounds.  Shaq is doubtful for this one and Perk is back in the starting lineup and with 8 games under his belt, hopefully is ready to man the middle in this game because the Celtics are very thin at center with Shaq, JO, and Semih all sidelined with various injuries.

Also in that game, Rondo had a very quiet first half but came alive in the second half to bring the Celtics back from a 7 point deficit and to lead them to the 13 point win.  The Celtics will need Rondo to be aggressive from the beginning in this one because the Lakers can't be expected to fold down the stretch in both games.  So the Celtics need to get off to a good start.

Kobe had 38 points in the first meeting between these two teams.  But, the key stat is that he didn't have a single assist as he tried to win the game on his own.  The Lakers as a team had just 10 assists while the Celtics as a team dished out 34 dimes.   A key in this game will be whether Kobe tries early to get his teammates involved and whether they respond.   It is always better for the Celtics when Kobe goes into hero mode.

The Lakers have won their last 2 games while the Celtics are coming off a loss to the Bobcats.   When last they met, the Celtics were coming off an embarrassing loss to the Suns while the Lakers were coming off an equally embarrassing loss to the Kings.  Both teams have had 2 days off prior to this meeting.  The Lakers are 5-5 in their last 10 games and 16-8 on the road while the Celtics are 7-3 in their last 10 and 23-4 at home.

The Celtics bench is depleted with injuries to 3 of their centers, Delonte and now Quisy.   The remaining reserves must step up in this one to give the starters enough rest to be able to execute down the stretch.  Adding drama to this game (as if it needed any more) will be Ray needing just 2 3's to take the all time 3 point record.  Hopefully that won't distract Ray or the Celtics and they will use it as incentive to  come out and take control and use the home crowd to carry them to a sweep of the hated Fakers.

Probable Starters
Point Guard:  Rajon Rondo   ----------------   Shooting Guard:  Ray Allen

Center:  Kendrick Perkins  

Small Forward:  Paul Pierce  ------------------ Power Forward: Kevin Garnett

Celtics Reserves
Glen Davis
Nate Robinson
Luke Harangody
Avery Bradley
Von Wafer

Marquis Daniels (Spine)  out
Delonte West (wrist)  out
Jermaine O'Neal (knee)  out
Shaquille O'Neal (Achilles)  day to day
Semih Erden (abductor)  questionable
Paul Pierce (under the weather)  will play
Probable Starters
Point Guard:  Derek Fisher -------------------- Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant

Center: Andrew Bynum

Small Forward: Ron Artest -------------------- Power Forward: Pau Gasol

Lakers Reserves
Lamar Odom
Steve Blake
Shannon Brown
Luke Walton
Derrick Character
Devin Eubanks
Joe Smith

Matt Barnes (knee)  out
Theo Ratliff  (knee)  out

Key Matchups
Let's face it, every matchup is crucial in this game.  But I think some may benefit the Celtics the most if we can get the upper hand in them.

Rajon Rondo vs Derek Fisher
We know that Rondo sets the tone and the pace for the Celtics.  As Rondo goes so go the Celtics.  When Rondo is aggressive on both ends of the court the Celtics are a much better team.  The Celtics need Rondo to be aggressive in driving to the hoop and in finding the open man.  He needs to set the pace of the game and keep the ball moving on offense.  Kobe will probably be guarding him most of the time rather than Fisher and the more active and aggressive he is, the more tired Kobe will be down the stretch.  If Fisher guards him, he should be able to get past him at will.

Kevin Garnett vs Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol is the Lakers 2nd option on offense.  More often than not, Pau has played tentatively and lets KG get into his head.   KG has to keep the upper hand and keep Pau on his heels and off his game.  The Celtics will need KG's defense especially but they will also need him to hit those midrange shots that seem so automatic for him at times.

Honorable Mention
Kendrick Perkins vs Andrew Bynum
Perk needs to be aggressive in boxing out Bynum and in  going after rebounds.   He also needs to keep Bynum from getting to the basket on offense.   If Perk and KG can keep the Lakers' big men from their spots and from getting into a rhythm, the Celtics have a good chance of pulling out the win. 

Paul Pierce vs Ron Artest
Pierce went off for 32 points in the first meeting between these two teams.  It would be great if Pierce could go off again in this game but if Artest suddenly finds his defense, Pierce needs to become the facilitator and find his teammates for open shots rather than try to force things.  

Ray Allen vs Kobe Bryant
Ray did a good job of covering Kobe in the last game and will have to put out another good defensive showing in this game along with running his defender off of a bazillion screens to get open.  An added wrinkle in this game will be Ray's quest for the record.  He needs just 2 more 3's to take the all time 3 point record from Reggie Miller.  It should be a very emotional moment if and when he gets that record.  Hopefully it won't distract the Celtics but will rattle the Lakers.

Big Baby Davis vs Lamar Odom
Big Baby needs to have a huge game in this one.  With all of the injuries and the short bench,  Big Baby must come up big.  It isn't clear whether Lamar wears his new perfume or not, but regardless, he is a big part of the Lakers rotation and along with scoring,  Big Baby must defend Odom and keep him from having a big game.  

Keys to the Game
Defense -  Defense is the key to winning this game and to winning Banner 18.    Perk and KG must be active and vocal on defense and they have to set the tone for the rest of the team.   If the Celtics want to win this game they must clamp down on defense.  

- Rebounding is second only to defense as a key to winning.  The Celtics allowed the Bobcats to out rebound them 50-37.  On the other hand, in the first game between these two teams, the Celtics out rebounded the Lakers 43-30 and it showed in the final score.  Rebounding is effort and desire and the Celtics must put out the effort on the boards and it will carry over in other areas of their game.  

Run the Offense -  The Celtics must move the ball and run their offense.  When players try to do too much on their own and play hero ball,  they will rarely win.  When they move the ball and find the open man, they are very hard to beat.   The Celtics had 34 assists in the first meeting between these two teams while the Lakers had just 10.  Team beats the individual every time.

Bench Play - The Celtics bench must come through for them in this game.  Even though the bench is depleted, the players who are left have got to do their part.  The Celtics bench was outscored 44-15 by the Bobcats bench, which isn't even that strong of a bench.  They have to give more in this game because the Lakers bench certainly will.

Effort and Focus - Neither has been a problem for the Celtics in the big games so far.  They seem to lack both against the sub-.500 teams that they should beat but against the contenders, so far they have always come to play.   They have to give an extra effort in this one to make up for all the injured players. 

Official Report 

Scott Foster 
Foster has officiated over 720+ regular season games and 25+ play-off games. Foster has 2 years officiating experience in the CBA. Prior to becoming an official, Foster modeled for department store mannequin mold makers. He came into the public eye as the best friend of former referee Tim Donaghy. In his book, Donaghy describes Foster as a very honest and good guy who knew nothing of his gambling. However, recently Donaghy described Foster as a company man who will do what is asked of him to keep his seniority among refs. Foster was also part of the Finals game 7 officiating crew that called the final quarter so one sided so hopefully he's not back to do the same in this one. The Celtics are 1-1 this season and 4-6 in their last 10 games with Foster on the court. The win this season was an 84-81 win over the Sixers at home where the Sixers shot 10 more free throws than the Celtics. The Lakers are 9-1 with Foster in their last 10 games. His home W/L record this season is 24-20

Derrick Collins
Collins has been an official in the league for 9 years. He has experience in the CBA five years and in the WNBA three years. He has also officiated 7 years on the collegiate level and seven years on the high school level in California and Louisiana. The Celtics are 2-0 with Collins this season and 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Lakers are also 7-3 with Collins in their last 10 games. His home W/L record this season is 23-18.

Scott Wall
Scott Wall has been an NBA ref for 14 years. He has 4 years of officiating USA basketball, 6 years experience at the college level and 5 years experience at the high school level. The Celtics are 3-0 this season with Wall as an official. He was also on the crew that called the Philly game where the officiating was suspect. Both teams are 6-4 in their last 10 games with Wall. His home W/L record this season is 25-11.

Home Court, Records,  and the Officials
The Celtics beat the Lakers on their floor and now the Celtics have the home court advantage.  They have to let the crowd give them a boost.  Also, the hoopla surrounding Ray's record 3's may go either way.  That kind of thing can sometimes hurt the home team and can sometimes distract the opponent.   Hopefully in this one, the Celtics don't let it distract them from the goal and at the same time we can only hope it will be a distraction for the Lakers.   Finally, there is no doubt that referees can affect the outcome of a game.  If they let them play in this one, I like the Celtics chances, but that is a big IF!