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Lakers vs. Celtics Preview: A nightmare season is brewing

The Lakers will have to play a near-perfect game to beat the Celtics on the road on Thursday.

Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers

The Lakers will continue their Grammy road trip in Boston on Thursday, where they will face their arch-rivals, the Celtics. This will be the third stop of their six-game trip and the fourth game in the last six nights.

Start time and TV schedule

Who: Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics

When: 4:30 p.m. PT, Feb. 1

Where: TD Garden

Watch: Spectrum Sportsnet

Before the season commenced, there was an interesting debate about who claims banner No. 18 first between these two rivals. It was fair to hope for a Lakers-Celtics Finals at that time because not only were both teams viewed as championship contenders but also two of the deepest teams in the league.

Except now, one of them is living up to those expectations while the other has failed miserably. After winning the inaugural In-Season Tournament (IST), the Lakers’ season has turned into a nightmare. What’s worse, the Celtics have consistently looked like the best team in the league throughout the season. As a fan, it’s been beyond frustrating to watch.

The only thing that’s been consistent for the Lakers this season is their inconsistency. It’s February and they’re 49 games into the season, yet they have performances like the last two games where they play like a lottery team. They also have moments where they play up to their potential like last Saturday’s victory versus the Warriors.

LeBron James pretty much summarized this year’s Lakers team in this quote below (NSFW language):

Hopefully it’s the version that could beat anyone on any given night that makes an appearance in Boston on Thursday. The Lakers have now lost to the Celtics three times in a row, including last season. Suffering a blowout defeat in the Garden, of all places, would just make this season even worse. For the Lakers to have a chance in this one, they need to find a way to solve their Kristaps Porzingis problem.

It’s not a coincidence that Porzingis led the C’s in points and rebounds in their last matchup against the Lakers on Christmas Day. He may not be the best player on the floor but the big man is a matchup problem for the purple and gold.

Porzingis stretches the Celtics’ offense with his shot-making ability, forcing Anthony Davis to the perimeter. This allows the Celtics to not only dominate inside the paint — where they scored 58 of their points last game — but also rebound the ball.

The Celtics also killed the Lakers in transition and second-chance opportunities as they were able to expose the Lakers’ weak rebounding and transition defense. The Lakers had a shot to pull it out, but they ultimately didn’t have enough firepower to keep up with Boston, no thanks to a horrible LeBron James performance in the second half.

If the Lakers want a shot to beat the Celtics on Thursday, they’ll honestly need to play a near-perfect game. That means converting their 3-pointers at a high rate, getting above-average games from their superstars and, most importantly, playing with elite defense.

It’s going to be a tough challenge to beat a team that has only lost twice at home this season but hey, the Lakers have surprised us a lot this season — for better or worse. It will be very on-brand of the ‘23-24 Lakers to pull this one out in Boston after just losing to two teams with below .500 records. But if they lose to their rivals again and make it three in a row, the nightmares will continue.

Let’s see if the Lakers can turn their current road trip around with a victory on Thursday against the best team in the league.

Notes and Updates:

  • After sitting out the last game due to hip spasms, Anthony Davis (bilateral Achilles tendinopathy and hip spasms) is now listed as questionable on the injury report along with LeBron James (left ankle peroneal tendinopathy).
  • Cam Reddish (right ankle sprain) and Gabe Vincent are out.
  • As for the Celtics, Luke Kornet (left hamstring strain) is the only one noted as questionable.

You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani

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