Short Handed Celtics Take on Hated Lakers in LA

Boston Celtics (21-18) at Los Angeles Lakers (24-16)
Regular Season Game #40  Road Game #16
Sunday, March 11
3:30 PM ET
Staples Center
Referees:  Joe Crawford, Curtis Blair, Leon Wood
The Celtics begin a grueling 8 game road trip against their biggest rival.  Both teams played Friday night and both teams had a long plane trip to get to LA.  The Lakers have no injuries to report while the Celtics may once again be short handed.  They will definitely miss Jermaine O'Neal up front.  But they will also miss Chris Wilcox who didn't travel with the team and will be out indefinitely for some type problem that showed up in cardiac tests.  Mickael Pietrus made the trip but will be a game time decision with pain and swelling in his surgically repaired knee.

Bynum has already set the tone for the game with his comments that the Lakers will be going at the Celtics' heads because they "don't like them boys."  After seeing Kobe's dirty hit on Rubio on Friday that tore his ACL, and the dirty hit that took Perk out in 2010, the Celtics need to take that threat to heart and be ready for them.

 The Lakers are ranked 19th in scoring at 94.6 ppg and the Celtics are ranked 26th, scoring 90.9 ppg.  Both teams are among the top defensive teams with the Lakers holding opponents to 41.9 FG% (2nd) while the Celtics allow opponents to shoot 42.0% (3rd).  The biggest challenge for the Celtics will be on the glass where the Lakers are the top rebounding team at 45.8 per game while the Celtics rank last with 39.0 rpg.  The Celtics must put out a strong effort to beat the Lakers on the boards.

Both teams are 6-4 in their last 10 games and both are coming off of a win after suffering a loss on the road.  The Lakers have been very tough at home with a 17-2 record at the Staples Center.  The Celtics have struggled on the road with just a 4-10 record away from the Garden.  The Celtics will face the Clippers on Monday night while the Lakers will have Monday off.  Much is made of the Celtics age, but both teams have a starting five with the same average age of 31 years old.

There are a lot of factors going against the Celtics in this game and they will have to make up for those factors with heart, desire, and the will to win. 

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

Center:  Kevin Garnett  

Small Forward:  Paul Pierce  ------------------ Power Forward: Brandon Bass

Celtics Reserves
Marquis Daniels
Greg Stiemsma
JaJuan Johnson
E'Twaun Moore
Avery Bradley
Sasha Pavlovic
Keyon Dooling

Jermaine O'Neal (wrist) out
Chris Wilcox (cardiac testing)  out
Mickael Pietrus  (knee)  game time decision

Probable Starters
Point Guard:  Derek Fisher -------------------- Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant

Center: Andrew Bynum

Small Forward:Metta World Peace -------------------- Power Forward: Pau Gasol

Lakers Reserves

Troy Murphy
Andrew Goudelock
Matt Barnes
Jason Kapono
Devin Ebanks
Josh McRoberts
Darius Morris
Luke Walton
Steve Blake

None listed

Key Matchups
Rajon Rondo vs Derek Fisher
The Celtics must get a big game with a lot of energy from Rondo.  When he is aggressive, he sets the tone for the rest of the team to also play more aggressively.   Point guard is the Lakers weakness and the Celtics strength.  Rondo must take advantage of it.

Kevin Garnett vs Andrew Bynum
Brandon Bass vs Pau Gasol  
KG has a way of getting into Gasol's head.  I expect to see him guarding Gasol rather than Bynum most of the time as Bynum would just brutalize KG with his thuggish tactics.  Bass has more bulk to try to defend against Bynum.  Either way, these two matchups are going to be very tough for the Celtics.

Honorable Mention

Paul Pierce vs Ron Artest
There have been many memorable games between these two over the years.   This is personal between these two tough players and expect to see things get heated between them.  Artest has even resorted to pulling down Pierce's shorts to get an advantage so I wouldn't put anything past him.  Pierce has to keep his head in the game and play him tough, especially on the boards.

Keys to the Game
Rebound -  Rebounding is key to getting a win.   A big reason for this is that much of rebounding is effort and desire and the team that wants it most goes harder after the rebounds and the team that wants it more wins the game.  The Celtics give up size to the Lakers and so what they lack in size, they must make up for in effort.  They must box out and keep the Lakers bigs off the boards.  In their last meeting in Boston, it seemed like half of the Lakers points were scored on tip ins.  The Celtics must crash the boards in order to prevent that from happening in this game also.  

Defense - Defensive intensity is very important.  The team that plays the best defense along with figuring out how to deal with the defense of the other team will come out on top. The Celtics must put out a strong effort on defense, especially in the paint and around the basket if they want to win this game.

Run the Offense -   The Celtics must move the ball and run their offense.  They have so many weapons that if they share the ball and find the open man, they can get good shots, even against good defenses. They have to resist the temptation of trying to do too much individually.  They must play as a team because teams win games, not individuals.  They did a great job of sharing the ball and making good passes against the Blazers and they must do the same in this game.

Bench Play - The Celtics bench must come through for them in this game.   They could be short handed if Wilcox and Pietrus can't play but the remaining players, especially Stiemsma and Johnson must give the team some good minutes since their size will be desperately needed.

Hustle and Effort -  The Celtics must come out with energy and go after every loose ball and every rebound.  They have to be the team that wants it more if they want to win this game.  They came out flat against Philly and stood watching while their opponents went after loose balls and drove to the hoop.  The Celtics must be the more aggressive team.  

Official Report
Joe Crawford
Over more than three decades in the NBA, Joe Crawford has officiated 2,402 regular season and 278 playoff games, including 46 NBA Finals games. Crawford’s 278 playoff and 46 NBA Finals games are the most among active NBA officials. Over his career, Crawford has officiated the 1986, 1992 and 2000 NBA All-Star Games, as well as the
1993 McDonald’s Championship in Munich, Germany. There is no shortage of controversy surrounding Joey Crawford, the biggest of which was a suspension for tossing Tim Duncan for laughing on the bench and then challenging him to a fight. He is known for his quickness to call technical fouls but also doesn't tend to be influenced by the home crowd as much as many younger refs seem to be. In the 2008 Playoffs, Crawford was chosen to officiate Game 4 of the Western Conference final between the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Lakers. In the closing seconds of the game, there was a no-call where the Spurs' Brent Barry was unquestionably fouled by Derek Fisher. Crawford was the closest official to the call, and the NBA later apologized for the lack of a call. Crawford was also one of the refs who was involved in the income tax evasion convictions and was suspended at that time as well. And in the Suns 2010 first round against the Blazers, Crawford made what was possibly the worst call of all time But don't just believe me, watch it for yourself.

This is the Celtics 4th game with Crawford this season. He officiated the Christmas day loss to the Knicks, third Wizards game, and the win over the Cavs, all of which were called fairly evenly. The Celtics are 2-1 this season and 7-3 in their last 10 games with Crawford. The Lakers are 2-0 this season and 7-3 in their last 10. His home W/L record this season is 13-16.

Curtis Blair
Curtis Blair is entering his fourth NBA season having officiated 164 regular season games. Blair has six seasons of NBA D-League experience and worked the 2008 NBA D-League Finals. He also officiated in several college conferences. Blair graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Richmond in 1992 where he
was a member of the 1991 Men’s basketball team that upset Syracuse in the NCAA Tournament. He was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 1992 but never played a game for the Rockets. He played professionally in Australia, Austria and
Turkey. Following his overseas playing career, Blair became a referee in the NBA. Celtics are 2-0 this season and 9-1 in their last 10 games with Blair as an official. Both games this season (Knicks and Nets) were called evenly. The Lakers are 8-2 in their last 10 games with Blair and 1-1 this season. His home W/L record this season is 20-10.

Leon Wood
Osie Leon Wood, III has officiated 600+ regular season games and 6 play-off games.
Prior to becoming an NBA referee, Wood was a shooting guard in the NBA. He was chosen 10th overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1st round of the 1984 draft. During his career, he played for the 76ers, Bullets, Nets, Spurs, Hawks and Kings. He played in 274 games in his career and won a gold medal as a member of the 1984 US Olympic basketball team. When not officiating, Wood helps train younger officials. You would think that being a former player, Wood would try to be fair but he has been a mediocre ref at best. The Celtics are 1-1 this season and 9-1 over their last 10 games with Wood officiating. In the loss this season, Chicago shot 20 free throws to 13 for the Celtics. The officiating in the win in Cleveland was terrible. Wood ignored a trip on Ray right in front of him in a 1 point game with 10 seconds left. Celtics shot 14 free throws to 25 for the Cavs. The Lakers are 2-1 this season and 8-2 over their last 10 games called by Wood. His home W/L record this season is 16-14.

Fatigue and the Road 
Both teams played in the East on Friday night with the Celtics getting an easy win over the Blazers and the Lakers pulling out a last second win in Minnesota on a bad call by the refs.  Both teams had to then travel to LA where the Lakers have the advantage of being home and the Celtics will need to get into a hotel.   Which team will deal with the travel and fatigue better?