The (5-27) Los Angeles Lakers have reached the final destination of their three-game road trip after a two hour, four minute flight, traveling 721 miles northeast (44 degrees from north) to Boston, MA to battle the (18-13) Celtics in Kobe Bryant’s TD Garden finale. Against Charlotte, a back and forth game consisting of 21 lead changes, 13 ties competitive up until Hornets point guard Kemba Walker caught fire (game-high 38 points), the Lakers faded down the stretch, going cold in the closing moments of the game as if DC Comics Mr. Freeze hit them with a shot from his freeze gun, Charlotte finished L.A. off for a 108-98 win sending the Lakers to a four-game losing skid.
The game provided several positives; six players scored in double-digits, the purple and gold had 24 assists and received a 39 point contribution from their reserves. The numbers you need to know: 54, 48, 46, 41, 38, 23 and 2. The Lakers allowed the Hornets to score 54 points in the paint, in addition to and more egregiously, to shoot 48.3-percent from the field, securing 46 rebounds (39 defensive) as well as surrendering 38 points to Kemba Walker (four points shy of his career-high). Los Angeles shot 41.2-percent from the field, missing a grand total of 50 shots, gave up 23 fast break points in conclusion the Hornets became the second team since December 25th (prior to that 17 of 18 teams exceeded 100 points) that the Lakers allowed to score 100 points against them.
Without enmity the Lakers are rancid on defense a odoriferous constant for 32 games and rank 20th or worse in all of the defensive “four factors” opponent shooting, defensive rebounding, opponent turnover rate and opponent free throw rate. http://stats.nba.com/league/team/#!/fourfactors/?Season=2015-16&SeasonType=Regular%20Season&sort=OPP_EFG_PCT&dir=-1 In the first place the Lakers and Celtics have combined for 33 NBA Championships. The Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Boston Celtics is still one of the NBA’s marquee matchups. The Lakers are 3-9 in NBA Finals series against Boston, with the Celtics taking the first eight, although this may be true, the Lakers won three of the last four (1985, 1987, 2010).
In two NBA Finals against Boston, Kobe Bryant and the Lakers lost in 2008 and redeemed themselves with a hard-fought win in 2010. The Celtics were one of many teams with a top ten pick in the 1996 NBA Draft that passed on Kobe Bryant. The Celtics chose Antoine Walker; one of the “Super six of ‘96”, lottery picks, the group of players considered ‘can’t miss’ prospects all of which selected ahead of the ‘black mamba’. Those twelve players, in draft order, were Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Antoine Walker, Lorenzen Wright, Kerry Kittles, Samaki Walker, Erik Dampier, Todd Fuller and Vitaly Potapenko.
It is unrealistic to utter the word ‘failure’ when in hindsight, discussing the lottery teams of 1996 selecting the wrong player given the fact that many players making the jump from high school fail to succeed in their transition to the NBA. Kobe Bryant’s talent undeniable, however the theme that played out then, it would take time for Kobe to develop and lottery teams did not have time to wait. In light of this reality the lottery teams decided to go after the proven commodity of players that played in college as oppose to a high school player skipping college all together. The Celtics lead the all-time series 155-127; the Lakers are 48-79 on the road, although the purple and gold are 7-3 in their last 10 overall regular-season games against the Celtics at TD Garden.
In 29 career regular-season games (including 26 starts), Kobe Bryant is averaging 25.1 points. The Lakers split the season series with the Celtics in the 2014-15 season. The Celtics rank sixth in the NBA in scoring (103.1 points per game), ninth in rebounding (44.5 rebounds per game), fifth in assists (24.1 assists per game) and eighth defensively allowing 98.7 points per game. Isaiah Thomas the Celtics leading scorer (20.7 points), simply ‘gets buckets’. The Lakers beat the Celtics 118-111 on February 22, 2015.
It is still baffling that NBA scouts did not see enough or could not get past Isiah Thomas height after his career at the University of Washington (two-time Pac-12 Championship game MVP, averaging 16.4 points on 43-percent shooting per game for three years) that he would become the last player drafted in 2011, Thomas also leads the Celtics with 6.8 assists per game. Boston is riding a four-game winning streak; scoring 103.5 points (which includes 44.5 points in the paint), acquiring 49.25 rebounds and their reserves scoring, on average 34 points.
Equally important, the Celtics center position (which includes Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Zeller) produces, on average 24.1 points and 15.5 rebounds per game. The Lakers performance on the defensive end of the court integral and key in determining their success or failure. On offense, it is imperative that the Lakers execute on offense utilizing superior moving, passing and cutting to find the open man as well as make the defense work. Defensively, the Lakers must get back in transition, stop the ball, perform well against the pick-and-roll play, surround the Celtics center and make him play in a crowd. The purple and gold need to quickly rotate out to open shooters, challenge every shot, box their men out and rebound.
Lakers: L. Williams, J. Clarkson, K. Bryant, L. Nance, R. Hibbert
Celtics: I. Thomas, A. Bradley, J. Crowder, A. Johnson, J. Sullinger
Tip-off: 4:30 PM PST
• Los Angeles: TWC Sportsnet (Bill MacDonald & Stu Lantz)
• Boston: CSN New England (Mike Gorman & Tom Heinsohn)
• Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (John Ireland & Mychal Thompson)
• Boston: WBZ Newsradio 1030 AM (Sean Grande & Cedric Maxwell)
• Marcus Smart (Lower Left Leg) Day-to-Day
• David Lee (Back) Day-to-Day