Game 40 Preview: Lakers vs. Celtics


Jan 15, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol (16) and guard Kendall Marshall (12) run up the court in the second half of the game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. The Suns won 121-114. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

These things happened in 1993. Michael Jordan scored his 20,000 point. Reggie Jackson entered the Baseball Hall of Fame. Troy Aikman was the MVP of Superbowl XXVII. All expected events, celebrated achievements. But also in 1993 the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers missed the playoffs after dreadful seasons. The Celtics lost 50 games that year. The Lakers 49 games.

And so it is. 20 years later, history repeats itself as the Celtics and Lakers are on pace to end their seasons in mid April and wait for the lottery in late June in hopes that they land somewhere within the first five picks. But before that happens, before the waiting game and hope in the unseen, these historic rivals play each other on Friday night in Boston with not much on the line but pride. The last time they played each other Dr. Jerry Buss had just died and it was a solemn game. This time it is not as grief stricken an event but still it is miserable. The Lakers have lost 12 out of 13 games. The Celtics have lost 9 out of 10 games. If you want to break your brain try to figure out who is worse. Only a half a game separates these historic franchises in the standings, both have won fourteen games. It has been a season of futility for them both. And yet, despite how it all appears on paper, there are some intriguing storylines of the game to come.

Rajon Rondo: His first game since ACL surgery in February he will be on a minutes restriction. How will he perform? How quick will he be? How effective will his cuts to the rim break down the defense and how can he get his teammates shots since most of them he has never played with. The last time he was on the basketball floor Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce were his teammates. Now he has Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynuk.

Manny Harris: He signed a 10 day contract once Nick Young was suspended. The shooting guard from Michigan was D-League Player of the Week in back to back weeks. He scored a single game record of 49 points for the Los Angeles Defenders. Then he scored 38 points. And then he had 42 points. In those three games he had 24 rebounds, He took 38 free throws making 89% of them. He made 60% of his shots. Yes, it is the D-League but a scorer is a scorer and it is something the Lakers are missing, an impact player on offense who can make a high percentage of his shots. Manny is not a three point shooter (25%) so it remains to be seen how he will fit within D’Antoni’s perimeter system.

Offense: The Celtics are one of the worst offensive teams in the NBA scoring only 95 points a game. The Lakers are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, giving up 106 points a game. The Lakers have a habit of making sure someone on the other team has a career night. Hmm. Who will it be? Jeff Green? Kris Humphries? Avery Bradley?

Defense: The Celtics are a top 10 defensive team. They give up 98 points a game. They contest shots, they get into passing lanes, they defend the rim. Will the Lakers be able to get open looks? The Celtics are not particularly athletic as a group. The Lakers do not have to worry about explosiveness, just taking care of the ball and shot selection.

Class is in Session: Kobe may have sat in on Marketing classes at Boston College on Thursday night but his teammates are the ones who need to go to school and learn basic basketball plays: boxing out, going after rebounds, transition defense, not letting teammates suffer. As James Worthy noted they are not getting better, they are getting worse.

Has it really been four years? It is hard to believe that much time has passed since these two franchises were in the NBA Finals, game 7. It is proof how the NBA is an example of Darwinian evolution. Teams evolve or teams die.