The Los Angeles Lakers have been enjoying some home cooking in their recent stretch of games, winning five straight in front of the Los Angeles faithful, and six of their last ten contests overall. Their improved play has to taste a little sweeter for fans of the team, as the roster has dealt with what feels like an endless cycle of injuries.
Prized point guard Lonzo Ball will miss his fifth straight contest for the purple and gold, and is possibly still a week away from returning. The team, who has struggled mightily with his absence, just racked off their first two wins of the season without him, previously 0-8 in games when he did not suit up. The Lakers have also been without Ball’s backcourt mate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who has been nursing an Achilles strain the last two games, and is listed as questionable for this one.
The rest of the roster has thankfully picked up their games with the starting backcourt missing, notching impressive, and handily, wins against the Indiana Pacers and the New York Knicks by a 16.5 point margin. The team has been led prominently by the stellar play of Jordan Clarkson, who is coming off arguably his two best performances of the season, and possibly career as a Laker. There has also been the emergence of present-and-future cult hero Alex Caruso, who has provided a much needed spark off the bench.
Standing in the way of a three-game win streak and their sixth straight at home is the Lakers’ definitive rival, and top seed in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics. The Celtics, who many wrote off after the horrific season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward, have rallied and have cemented their place on top of the East.
The Celtics have won a good chunk of their games this season primarily through their stifling defense, which ranks first in the entire league (allowing only 101.8 points per 100 possessions) and are tops in opponent’s effective field goal percentage (48.8%). That being said, the team will enter STAPLES Center on Tuesday night losers of their last three contests, and hungry to get back on track with a win against their dreaded rivals.
The Lakers have been working to get their defense back to being respectable, having the 10th best defensive rating in the league, but still struggle tragically on offense. The Lakers have been near the bottom of the barrel in most offensive categories all season: 29th in offensive rating, 28th in turnover percentage, and 28th in effective field goal percentage. This notion of the best defensive team in the NBA vs the second-to-last offensively ranked team, does not project well for the home team.
Fortunately for the Lakers, Boston is nowhere near an offensive juggernaut themselves, currently 18th in the league in offensive rating, which is worse than the two teams the Lakers just beat in the Pacers and Knicks. A specific area of weakness in the Celtics’ offense is their efficiency around the rim (shots within 4 feet,) where they currently are 28th in the league shooting only 58 percent. This plays right into an area of strength for the Lakers, who currently are ninth-best in the league at defending the rim. A Celtics’ strength is their outside shooting, Top-10 in efficiency (37.3%) currently, which is also a place the Lakers excel in defending, 3rd best in the league defending the three-ball.
The Lakers will almost certainly be the underdog going into this matchup, but if the team can somehow replicate their passionate play from the last two games, stranger things have happened, especially when the Lakers and Celtics are involved.
Statistics provided by: cleaningtheglass.com