The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers meet in their historic rivalry for the second time in 12 days, this one Thursday night from the East Coast. Boston’s bench has been ravaged by the injury bug lately.
Los Angeles (36-16 straight-up, 23-28-1 against the spread) has been in the news recently as rumors are swirling about a potential Carmelo Anthony acquisition. Denver is looking to ship the impeding free agent somewhere and there were at least preliminary discussions with Lakers’ center Andrew Bynum the main trade bait.
The addition of Anthony (24.6 PPG) would certainly increase L.A.’s offense, but the loss of the seven-foot Bynum would hurt defensively and on the boards. Pau Gasol would be forced to play center and Lamar Odom would likely start at power forward. Ron Artest would head to the bench.
Ironically, it was the Lakers size up front with Bynum and Gasol that allowed them to get by Boston (4-3) in the NBA Finals last year. Don’t expect this trade to happen.
Bynum had 11 points and six rebounds in the first meeting against Boston this year. It came in SoCal on Jan. 30, with the Celtics winning 109-96 as three-point underdogs. Paul Pierce had 32 points and the Lakers wasted a 41-point effort from Kobe Bryant.
That was part of a recent five-game homestand for the Lakers (2-3 SU, 1-4 ATS). They began a seven-game road trip last Saturday in New Orleans, a 101-95 win as five-point favorites, with the Hornets missing starters Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza.
Another win and ‘cover’ came Monday night in Memphis, 93-84 as three-point ‘chalk.’ All five starters scored in double-digits, a great sign with Derek Fisher (6.5 PPG) and Artest (8.2 PPG) non-factors offensively for much of this year. Artest’s struggles are a reason the Anthony addition is appealing.
Los Angeles is 17-8 SU on the road and 13-11-1 ATS. It’s 0-4 ATS in its last four games on two days rest and 1-10 ATS in its last 11 Thursday contests.
This is a statement game for the Lakers. Not only do they want to avoid a season-sweep by their hated rival, but they’ve come up small in big games. They’re 0-4 SU and ATS against Boston, Miami and San Antonio, the teams with the three best records. Three of those games were in Los Angeles.
The Celtics (38-13 SU, 24-25-2 ATS) are fighting hard to keep the best record in the Eastern Conference. They currently have a half-game lead over Miami (38-14 SU).
Boston is coming off a 94-89 loss at Charlotte as 4 ½-point favorites on Monday. That was the second-half of a back-to-back, where the aging team is just 3-10 ATS. The team does progressively better on more rest, 12-11 ATS on one day, 5-3-1 ATS on two days (Thursday’s situation) and 4-1 ATS on three days or more.
The Celtics got a big boost recently with Kendrick Perkins coming back sooner than expected from a torn ACL. He’s now starting and playing over 30 minutes per game. He could be the only center playing Thursday with Jermaine O’Neal (knee) out and Shaquile O’Neal (Achilles) and Semih Erden (hip) doubtful.
Backup small forward Marquis Daniels (neck) is also out indefinitely, which means more playing time for Von Wafer. Glen Davis will be the backup at power forward and center, but the older starters like Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen will also have to play more minutes.
Boston is 23-4 SU at home this year, but just 11-14-2 ATS. The ‘over’ is 9-2 in its last 11 home games.
Los Angeles went 1-2 SU and ATS in Boston during the NBA Finals last year, and is 2-6-1 ATS in the last nine games there overall. The ‘under’ is 4-0 in the last four meetings in Boston.
TNT will have the broadcast at 5 p.m. (PT) from TD Banknorth Garden. It will be followed by Dallas at Denver.