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Lakers vs. Celtics Preview: The rivalry returns to L.A.

After the Lakers failed to notch their second three-game winning streak of the season when they lost Friday vs. the Clippers, they’ll now pivot rivalries as they play the Celtics.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Boston Celtics Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

A talking point over the past couple of seasons — dawning with the arrivals of Anthony Davis, Paul George, and Kawhi Leonard into the town — was that the Lakers and Clippers could become one of the league’s better rivalries. The two teams did not meet in the playoffs over the first two postseasons following those three acquisitions, making it hard for the rivalry to ever really take flight after never being much of a factor historically, as Russell Westbrook eloquently noted recently.

Either way, Lakers fans as well as general NBA fans will always have the Lakers and Celtics, the most heated and storied rivalry in the NBA as well as all of sports. After the Lakers lost to the Clippers this past Friday, they’ll now turn their sights to that fabled matchup as the Celtics come into town for a Tuesday night matchup.

Well-rested Lakers

If you feel like it’s been a while since you’ve watched the Lakers play basketball, then you’d be correct in that thinking. We became so used to having the Lakers in our lives day-in and day-out, even if that feeling was also accompanied with dread due to the way the 12-12 team has played so far.

They’ll come into Tuesday’s matchup on three days rest following Friday’s defeat at the hands of the Clippers. The team has had five total days of rest over the past week, resulting in far and away the most rest they’ve had over that time span since the season began. Before the two days of rest between Tuesday’s win against the Kings and Friday’s loss against the Clippers, the last time the Lakers had two straight days of rest was between the October 19th opening game against the Suns and the October 22nd game against the Warriors.

That should bode well for this extremely old team full of veterans, but what about LeBron James? Sure, he is one of the oldest of those veterans, but he hasn’t really had an opportunity to get his body into the physical swing of things due to the abdominal strain the sidelined him for two weeks. He expressed this idea after practice on Monday as he looks to play in just his second game in nine days on Tuesday night.

He seems to feel that he was last nearing a good state of physical conditioning back on November 2nd when the Lakers played the Rockets for the second game in a row. This was the final game he played before missing eight straight due to the abdominal strain, a game where he posted 30 points (on 13-21 shooting), 10 rebounds, and 4 assists. He has struggled from the field for the most part since, most recently putting up his most inefficient game since returning with a 9-23 field-goal shooting performance against the Clippers.

We’ll see if LeBron can improve his shooting in this one, but either way, it doesn’t sound like we will be seeing the peak physical performance from him that we’ve come to expect until he gets a few more games under his belt.

If he can pick and choose his shots wisely, that negative aspect shouldn’t affect the Lakers too much in this contest against the Celtics as their real advantage lies in Anthony Davis going against their frontcourt. He scored 31 points in the Celtics’ blowout victory against the Lakers back when they first met in mid-November, and will hopefully receive some more help from his teammates so that the Lakers can avenge that embarrassing defeat.

Notes and Updates:

  • Trevor Ariza and Kendrick Nunn will remain out. Frank Vogel did give updates regarding both players after Monday’s practice, saying Ariza participated in scrimmages but still has a ways to go. He offered an even more pessimistic outlook on Nunn, saying he will “probably not” make his debut in the 2021 calendar year.
  • The Celtics were without Jaylen Brown in the teams’ first matchup against each other and they may be without him again as he comes into the game questionable.
  • Around the league, our old pal Alex Caruso and his Bulls are still finding success as they’re now 16-8 while currently on a three-game winning streak. However, COVID-19 is making matters tough on them as it was announced late Monday afternoon that DeMar DeRozan would be entering health and safety protocols. They now have three players in those protocols, as DeRozan joined Coby White and starting power forward Javonte Green.

The Lakers and Celtics will tip-off at 7 p.m. PT with the game being nationally televised on TNT. You can also catch the game via the local broadcast on Spectrum SportsNet.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.