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Caught in the Web: Lakers gear up for Celtics showdown

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Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has referred to the team's contest today against the Boston Celtics as a measuring-stick game, and there are a lot of dimensions the Lakers can calculate.

Can the Lakers (36-11) pick up a signature road win against the Celtics (29-15) after starting out their eight-game trip with a loss to Cleveland? The Lakers are currently 4-2 on the trip, but all of those victories came against teams with records below .500. Kurt Helin of Forum Blue and Gold rightfully notes in a round table hosted by the Kamenetzky Brothers that both teams "know that games in January don't determine the outcome of games in June." Still, the Lakers said last season's undefeated six-game trip, including a win at Boston, helped give them confidence come playoff time. So even though this game won't make or break anyone's season, it can still provide answers regarding the team's identity. 

Both the Lakers (36-11) and Celtics (29-15) are currently going through a grinding stretch. The Lakers are on the tail end of their travels, while Boston is in the middle of a four-games-in-five-nights trip, an effort that hasn't gone well, with losses to Orlando and Atlanta thus far. The Lakers don't expect their recent success (three-game winning streak) and the Celtics' recent struggles (two-game losing streak) to have much bearing on the final outcome

There are too many variables.

There are injuries: Bryant twisted his left ankle Friday in the Lakers' victory over Phialdelphia, but he played through injury and told reporters after Saturday's practice that it was fine and he won't sit out (would you expect anything else?). Boston forward Kevin Garnett recently hyper-extended his knee, which sidelined him for 10 games. Asked if that was a factor in his six points on two-of eight shooting against Orlando, Garnett said no but spoke harshly of his on-court performance.

Then there's (here we go again) the issue of whether the Lakers are soft: It's cliched, stale and predictable, I know. But whether it's fair, a poor inside showing from Pau Gasol against an opponent known for its physicality in front of a national audience will surely make the national commentary on the Lakers rather easy. It's an issue Bryant has talked about ever since last week's loss to Cleveland, and Gasol says he's ready to "bring it."

There are key defensive matchups: The Celtics feature point guard Rajon Rando, who was most recently selected as a reserve in what will be his first All-Star appearance and has the second-best efficiency rating among Eastern Conference guards. Given the Lakers' consistent inefficiency in defending at the point, this may spell trouble, unless as Silver Screen and Roll predicts, "Kobe presumably will be assigned to Rondo, whom Derek Fisher has no hope of impeding." Then there's the presumed matchup between Ron Artest and Paul Pierce, who's coming off a season-high 35 points on 11-of-15 shooting against Atlanta. After a rough month that included recovering from a Christmas-night concussion and plantar fasciitis in both feet, Artest put in a month-best 18 points on seven-of-13 shooting against Philadelphia. More importantly, his foot problems have improved, meaning Artest could be a valuable asset in neutralizing Pierce.

More Lakers and Celtics links (after the jump)

--The Times' Mike Bresnahan details how the Lakers orchestrated getting Gasol two years ago in a trade from Memphis, later resulting in a 2008 NBA Finals appearance and a 2009 championship.

--The Gasol trade also prompted San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich to suggest there should be a committee that prevents such one-sided trades from happening, which entailed Memphis getting Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, the rights to Marc Gasol and two first-round picks (2008, 2010). Poppovich recently softened his stance. "They gave up a great player, but it helped them extend the franchise's success into the future," Popovich said of Memphis to the Commercial Appeal.

-- The Celtics have gone through lots of adversity this season with various injuries and inconsistent performances, so much so that The Times' Mark Heisler thinks that Celtics' dynasty featuring the Big Three (Garnett, Pierce, Ray Allen) is really just a "one-and-done."

-- Still, that's not stopping Bresnahan from picking the Lakers to lose today. Meanwhile, the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett says the Lakers' matchup is bad timing for the Celtics.

-- Take a trip down memory lane and relive some of the top Lakers and Celtics games by viewing ESPN Los Angeles' photo gallery. Vote in Brian Kamanetzky's poll on the best games in the rivalry's history. And see Bob Ryan's Top 12 list from the Boston Globe.

-- Lakers Coach Phil Jackson reminisces about games he was in as a former Knicks player against Boston at the Garden. The difference between past Boston fans and those of today? "It' a little more civilized crowd."

-- It's Lakers-Celtics. Of course, ESPN's Bill Simmons has something to say about it. 

Tweet of the day: "Bryant showed us his unbandaged finger at practice. He claims its '80 pct' better but he could barely bend it & it was swollen like a slug" --mcten (ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin)

-- Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Kevin Garnett has struggled with injuries since the Celtics won the NBA title in 2008. Credit: Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images

 
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UNITE
Today is a day Laker fans 'round the world put away their trade scenarios, analysis and player rants to unite in their hatred for the team so loathed it's name shall not be spoken.

This is personal. Man up, D up, GO Lakers.


The Bresh article on the anniversary of the Pau trade is revealing.

Huge trade, nobody knew nothin' before hand.

MM I think Heisler's take on the Celtics is accurate. Certainly this is the last year they have any chance of winning it all without major changes, and it's hard to see them getting passed the Cavs this year, at least the way both teams are playing now.
To me, the idea that the Lakers are soft compared to the Celtics is way overblown. Perkins is not Shaq.
One thing I'll be watching for today is Rondo's rebounds. He may be the best rebounding PG since Magic and Fat Lever. He has a real knack for sneaking in and getting offensive rebounds and stealing the ball from opposing bigs once they've secured a Def rebound.

I happen to think certain games in the regular season are important and do have an impact on the long term success of a season.

On the table after the Cleveland game is: Are the Lakers deep enough and tough enough in the post? Andrew showing soft and Gasol looking like he was struggling against the tall and strong Cleveland interior, combined with foul trouble, certainly highlights the question - do the Lakers need to find a forth big? While we all like MBenga and it is understood he's a great practice player - he might be outclassed playing valuable minutes in a championship series.

The other question is the point position. Williams was out in the Cleveland game and we still got beat. Today is another key match up. While in the past , the Lakers sag off Rondo to offset his quickness and to take advantage of his spotty ability to hit outside shots. Will this strategy continue to work? While I believe Rondo's greatest asset is his ability to lock down opposing point guards - he has less impact on the Lakers in this area, because the triangle doesn't depend on point guard penetration to initiate offense.

Never the less - Rondo has emerged as a strength area for the Celtics, while the Lakers point guard issues are well published.

A loss today - especially due to being overmatched around the basket or at the point, may prompt the Lakers to make a personnel move, while a win and success inside (a big game from Bynum) and in handling Rondo may influence the Lakers to hold pat.

Lastly, to me as a long time Laker fan - any game against the Celtics is a huge game. If the Lakers lose to the Celtics it will totally ruin my day. I don't care if the Celtics are o for a lifetime or championship contenders - I equally want the Lakers to kick their butts on every occasion.

DKWSFO

Neither team is arriving at this game at the top of their game. But they will both be worked up for this one. Forget all the Celtics struggles, they are dangerous today with Lakers coming into Boston.


A good test for the Lakers. Are Artest's feet ready for him to play some D on Pierce? Does Pau finally have his legs under him after missing so much time? Is Drew ready to play NBA ball at it's most intense and physical? Will Lamar come off the bench and go after the Celts? Is Kobe's finger/ankle/back ready? Are the Lakers tough enough and together enough as a team to do this?


I don't think our boys will really hit their stride until after the all Star break, but this game is a good dress rehearsal for the playoffs and one we all really want - one day all us angelenos agree we don't want to go green.


Tom Daniels

Predicted score Celtics 88 - lakers 74


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AN ODE TO BOSTON
That’s right boston we took your crown, you had it for a 1 year & then feel down
A title evey 20 years do you think that’s good, only clowns like you would.
You reloaded with Rasheed & Eddie House, But still look like you been hiiting the sauce
You live to play the Lakers you know you do, It’s a shame what we gonna do to you.
We don’t play well on Sundays so they say, let’s hear you talk after we blow you away.
The Freakin Lakers don’t talk they do, Today they are going to put some hurt on you.
So tell Big Baby get ready I ain’t lying, The Beast will have the lil brat crying
Tell Paula to have the Wheel Chair near by, For a quick get away when his @zz we fry
Tell the Bald headed Lunatic Kevin Garnett, he aint’ seen crazy till his but we get
Doc I like you I really do, but we’re sending the Celt’s to Hibernation until 2032.
The script was written before the beginning of time, Only one can rule, that’s the design
So all you can do is play your role, and against the Lakers that mean you will fold
We’re Destinys darlings and God’s favorite, So gain this year the title you won’t get
But what you will get is a whipping today, Then put Paula in her chair & wheel her away
The fight you fought was not good enough, That’s what happens to Bullies who act tought
That’s a few of the things we’ll do to you, we’re the Freakin LA lakers who the Hell R U!!
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WHO ARE WE?...ALL TOGETHER NOW:
We’re the World Champion LA Lakers , we’ve won 15 Rings
10 of the 50 Greatest players played under our wings
We’ve had 3 Laker Dynasties and now are starting on 4
That’s 2 better than any NBA team ever had before
The best Winning Percentage in History, can’t ask for more
You want Hall of Fame Coaches, Check it, we’ve had four
We got the Finals MVP, By the name of Name Kobe Bryant
He scored more points than an entire team without even trying
He scored 81 points in a game & could have scored more
But Rings not number of points is what he plays for.
We got The Logo Jerry West & The 1st Great center George Mikan
The smooth one Elgin Baylor & Magic Johnson the Icon.
We’ve had all the great centers like Shaq, Wilt & of course KAREEM
Super guards Worthy, Goodrich & Silk played on the Laker Team
Karl Malone & Gary Payton, A glove & Mailman we just leased
A 10 time Title Winning Coach who mastered Zen in the East
Chick Hearn the Legend, Broadcasted our Lakers Games
Now he’s Broadcasting from Heaven & is in the Hall of Fame
The most valuable NBA franchise is the Lakers year after year
That’s because in the finals we nearly always appear
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We play for Rings & Rings only , which is why teams fear us.
That’s just a summary of our Resume, we don’t talk we Do.
We’re The Freaking Champion Lakers, Who the Hell are You

The Logo: Jerry West;

AKA: The Biggest Loser in NBA Finals history

Go Celts

Wow, Green Leprechauan, you are indeed one optimistic fan despite your back to back losses to the Magic and Hawks.

Lakers will bring the best out of Boston and vice versa. Our guys have to "Man Up" and respond to the Celtics' rough and physical plays. I don't see much impact from AB on this game. Perkins will physically abuse Andrew and get him out of the comfort zone.

I hope Kobe gets the notch to defense Rondo instead of DFish. Lamar will need to stay in front of Sheed and prevent him from making his shots from the perimeter.

Have Faith!!! We're the Lakers!!

Thanks for your post Green Lepre"con". Here's mine:

Lakers 100, Celts 88

Good luck to all and no injuries!

Jamie-Sweet, JOHNNYP, JOHNNYV, Mr.NANO, BENJAMIN, Tom-DANIELS, GANAPIA, MCLYNE

I made the ROLL CALL! Thanks Mamba24. Thats AWESOME!

Any game against the Celtics matters. Sure not like we're in the Finals, but it's a pride related game. It matters.
I never trust teams with bad records to' repeat the bad stuff against us, cos everyone steps up against us. And the Celtics more than any other team.
It's like Milan - Inter for me.
It's never a game like other games.

Btw I am currently watchin what our tv shows: the Thuggets against The Spurs. Denver still catch always my eyes. They Are gangsta bball. And they can hurt. Billups doing work. The evil shooter. It's 85-80 at -5 minutes. Scary.

made the ROLL CALL! Thanks Mamba24. Thats AWESOME!Posted by: JohnnyV | January 31, 2010 at 12:08 PM

Naw, you're awesome my brother!! Now for an awesome win!
Yesssssss! And it COUNTS!!!
mamba24

WUTTUP CRUE!!!

GAME DAY BABY - YYYYEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!


Vman - you are so right. It IS personal. Green slime slithering off the floor at the final horn to chants of MVP for Kobe Bryant is what I want. Nothing less than humilation for the green weeners. Kobe's right - they are the epitome of bully ball and no one likes a bully. I have nothing but contempt for them, their coaching staff and their fans. Contempt. Righteous indignation. Pure, unadulterated loathing.


LET"S GO LAKERS!!!!!!!!! Heart, grit, determination and hustle. Hurt these ugly green weeners where they live.

Billups doing work. The evil shooter. It's 85-80 at -5 minutes. Scary. Posted by: ZairaAmaterasu | January 31, 2010 at 12:08 PM

I couldn't have put it better Zaira!

@JustAnotherMambafan, Contempt. Righteous indignation. Pure, unadulterated loathing. Now is that any sentiment to have on a Sunday?... Only if it's the Celtics!!! I feel a blow out I really do!!
mAMBA24

LAKERS 105 CELTICS 89
WHEEL CAHIR FOR PAULA, STRAIGHT JACKET FOR KG.

@Mamba24, thanks for the welcome, I used to be just "Mark," so I might already be in there somewhere in the roll call anyways, delete where you feel justified.

Seriously, did someone just talk !#$% about Jerry West? It must hurt that there is a picture of a Laker on EVERY Celtic uniform. In fact there is a picture of a Laker on EVERY uniform in the NBA. I guess there is a little Laker in everybody.

Just for the record, last time Perkins played Bynum they both had 7 rebounds, and Drew outscored him 9 to 8. Like I said Perkins ain't Shaq, and he's barely 6'10".

It's now time for me to turn off JVG and wannabe coach jackson and listen to MT and Spiro...at least they analyze the game sheesh. Bring back the Simulcast!!!

The New "Boston Celtic" Identity. "The Boston Thugs"!!


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