It’s “Rivals Week” in the NBA, and although most of the games this week seemed like the league forcing these “rivalries” onto the general public, there’s nothing forced about this one as there are generations on generations of bad blood between these two fanbases.
And although the fire between these two current iterations of the franchise could use a little stoking, that diminished state of the rivalry won’t keep the competitiveness on Saturday a low point. Both teams could really use a win with the Lakers hoping to win their first real game with Anthony Davis back (after playing on a minutes restriction in Wednesday’s win vs. the Spurs), and the Celtics currently dealing with a three-game losing streak for just the second time this season.
Will the reinforced Lakers find a way to start their road trip in an exhilarting way by giving the Celtics their first four-game losing streak of the year?
Speaking of reinforcements, that leads us straight into the rest of our preview.
Eyes on Darvin Ham
Other than Anthony Davis’s return on Wednesday, Lakers fans had another breath of fresh air in the form of the newly acquired Rui Hachimura. He made his purple-and-gold debut after the Washington Wizards traded him to the team earlier in the week.
With Davis and Hachimura entering the rotation, head coach Darvin Ham received a massive boost in size. Before the game, this seemingly was going to help him play less-and-less guard-heavy lineups that did have not functioned well on either end this season.
Well, that was then. And this is now.
Even with the injection of size, Ham still played some three-guard rotations featuring Russell Westbrook, Dennis Schroder, and Patrick Beverley. I’ll allow the reader to decide who’s the small forward in that group because I’m having issues doing so.
That group was a -9 in 12 minutes on Wednesday vs. the Spurs in a game where the Lakers won by 9. On the season as a whole, that trio has played 120 minutes together resulting in a -3.7 net rating which is highlighted by a putrid 117.8 defensive rating.
Breaking news... it’s easier to score over smaller players.
Wenyen Gabriel was the biggest victim of Hachimura’s arrival and Ham’s continued love for heavy-guard lineups, as he only played a few seconds of garbage time at the end of the game.
To absolve Ham a bit, Davis was on a minutes restriction while Hachimura probably felt lost more often than not out there after only arriving with the team the day before. However, Hachimura will have a little bit more comfortability on Saturday while Davis seemingly looked good enough to maybe get rid of that minutes restriction entirely.
Again the long-and-lengthy Celtics, will Ham continue to rely on those three-guard lineups? If so, the Lakers’ ability to steal a win in Boston will be even harder than it should be.
Notes and Updates
- For the first time in a long time, Anthony Davis is listed with a probable injury designation (they listed him as questionable heading into the previous game). Other than that, LeBron James (left ankle soreness) and Lonnie Walker IV (left knee tendinitis) are both listed as questionable. LeBron has been playing through questionable designations for a while. Walker on the other hand still looks like he may not return just yet after coming into the Spurs game as questionable but still missing his 14th straight game.
- Both Walker and Austin Reaves started missing games approximately around the same time, with there being no doubt that Reaves will miss this game (left hamstring strain) as he’s listed out. It will be his 12th straight absence.
- Reaves said he sprinted for the first time on Monday with a full-speed, non-contact workout happening Tuesday. That was the last update that was put out on him. As for the last time something was stated about Walker, it was positive, however, it was over 10 days ago at this point. However, given the fact that Walker is questionable while Reaves is out, it feels safe to assume he should be returning first. Walker will likely be on a minutes restriction.
- The Celtics will be without reigning Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart (right ankle sprain). It will be his fourth straight absence.
- They will also be without Danilo Gallinari (recovery from ACL tear), JD Davison (G-League), and Mfiondu Kabengele (G-League).
The Lakers and Celtics will tip off at 5:30 p.m. PT. The game will be exclusively televised on ABC.