The NBA’s two most decorated franchises renew their historic rivalry Sunday at Staples Center when the Los Angeles Lakers host the Boston Celtics.
Boston and Los Angeles have 33 NBA championships between them and have met in the Finals a record 12 times. Both are once again title contenders, with the Celtics sitting third in the Eastern Conference and the Lakers leading the Western Conference.
Los Angeles returned from the All-Star break Friday and defeated eighth-place Memphis, 117-105, in a potential preview of a first-round playoff matchup. The Lakers limited the Grizzlies to 41 first-half points and forced 16 turnovers.
“We understand every team we’re going to play, they’re going to play great against us. They look forward to that matchup,” Lakers star LeBron James told reporters after the win. “It’s up to us to take them out of what they do well. That’s what happened. Avery (Bradley) and JaVale (McGee) and Anthony (Davis) and the rest of us really being sound defensively and in tune with the game plan worked out well for us.”
Bradley tallied 14 points and three steals and Davis blocked seven shots to go with his 28 points and 13 rebounds.
Los Angeles needs to replicate that defensive intensity to reverse course from its previous meeting with Boston this season. The host Celtics crushed the Lakers 139-107 on Jan. 20, with Jayson Tatum, Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown all scoring 20-plus points.
Boston comes to L.A. off of an even more balanced offensive showing. Four Celtics — Brown, Tatum, Gordon Hayward and Daniel Theis — each scored at least 25 points in a 127-117 win Friday at Minnesota.
It marked the first time since 1960 that four Boston players hit that mark in the same game.
“It’s a long time,” Theis said of the historic milestone 60 years in the making. “It just shows how deep and how good our team is. We have guys who can score 20 (points) every night.”
The accomplishment is perhaps made all the more impressive considering that Walker — one of three Celtics averaging more than 20 points per game on the season — missed Friday’s game after having his knee drained.
The Boston Globe reported that the four-time All-Star could miss one to two weeks.
Walker has played a key role in Boston’s offense with 21.8 points and 5.0 assists per game. He scored 20 points and dished seven assists in last month’s meeting with the Lakers, and was one of seven Celtics to record at least one steal.
Defensive energy proved as vital to that win as Boston’s offensive balance. The Celtics held the Lakers to 43.8 percent shooting from the floor, 26.9 percent from 3-point range, and forced 15 turnovers.
Boston also limited James to 15 points, more than 10 below his season average, and held Davis to nine points, almost 18 fewer than his season average.
The Celtics rank third in the NBA in points allowed, holding opponents to 106.4 points per game. The Lakers are not far behind, however, with their trip to Boston serving as something of an aberration.
Los Angeles is limiting opponents to 107.3 points per game, sixth best in the NBA.
–Field Level Media