The daily NBA preview takes it to the rim with tips for a showdown between big guns the Boston Celtics and LA Lakers.
11:30 (AEDT), Tue 21st Jan @ TD Garden, Boston
History: Played 364: Celtics 203 V Lakers 161
Last meeting: March 9, 2019: Celtics 120 d Lakers 107 at Staples Center
Final Thoughts: Two of the NBA’s heavy hitters come together for the first time this season. But the Boston Celtics have hit the skids recently, while the LA Lakers are firming as the championship favourites after a dominant run of form.
The 27-14 Celtics have slipped to fourth in the East via six losses in their last eight games. They have gone down in their last three to the Pistons, Bucks (despite 40 points from Kemba Walker) and Suns.
Marcus Smart (37 pts, 5 reb, 8 ast, 4 stl) made a franchise-record 11 threes for a depleted Boston side against Phoenix but could not prevent a 123-119 loss.
The 34-8 Lakers have won 10 of their last 11. They bounced back from a one-point loss to the Magic (in which LeBron James dished up 19 assists) by beating the heavyweight Rockets 124-115 on the road.
James (31 pts, 5 reb, 12 ast, 2 stl) was outstanding again, stepping up without right-hand man Anthony Davis.
Stars in doubt
There’s a fair bit of uncertainty around both line-ups. Davis and Rajon Rondo are both currently listed as questionable for the Lakers, while the same status has been attributed to Celtics duo Kemba Walker and Jaylen Brown. All four players missed their teams’ most recent game.
The Celtics have won five of their last seven against the Lakers. But the Lakers snatched a 129-128 win in Boston last season, with a LeBron triple-double (28 pts, 12 reb, 12 ast) getting the young side over the line. Rondo also had 17 points, 7 rebounds and 10 assists.
The Lakers are an imposing 18-2 away from Staples Center this season. The Celtics are 16-5 at TD Garden but have lost three of their last five at TD Garden.
The Celtics (23-16-2) and Lakers (23-18-1) are among the NBA’s best teams ATS. But the Lakers are better equipped to deal with potential absentees and bring far greater momentum into this high-profile showdown.
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