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Celtics-Lakers: 5 Things to Watch

Mar 11, 2012, 2:34 PM EDT

Los Angeles Lakers Pau Gasol drives between Boston Celtics Brandon Bass and Celtics Jermaine O'Neal in the first half of their NBA basketball game at TD Garden in Boston Reuters

With the Lakers and Celtics renewing their epic rivalry this afternoon, it’s time to look ahead at what we’re witnessing when the two face-off at Staples Arena at 3:30 p.m. EST. It’s the NBA’s oldest, best, and most celebrated rivalry and despite the turning point both teams are facing in their history. Here are five things to watch today when the Lakers host the Celtics.

1. End of an Era: This is the end of Lakers-Celtics 2000’s. A rivalry reborn in 2008 when they met in the Finals, a series famous for a dramatic Lakers collapse, Paul Pierce‘s wheelchair episode which Lakers fans hold onto like a pitbull with flank steak, and the celebration of Garnett, Pierce, and Allen in their first championship. The rivalry took a year off, most believe due to a Kevin Garnett knee injury which ended his season in April. And then of course the 2010 re-match, a Lakers victory famous for Kendrick Perkins‘ knee injury which gave the Celtics their out card, Ron Artest’s biggest play as a Laker, and a big revenge game for Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. But it’s a near-lock these teams will not look the same next year.

Even if the Lakers keep their core, the Celtics are very unlikely to keep both Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. There will be changes. The rivalry will sustain, but you should enjoy this last meeting between two behemoths that have defined the NBA over the past five seasons.

2. Mentally Unstable: Both teams are suffering from the strain of the trade deadline. The Lakers are constantly under a haze of rumors. The Celtics’ management has been proactive in getting the word out that their players are not actively being shopped. True or not, it changes how they’re behaving. They’re smart enough to know they could still be traded, but it makes them feel a little better. The Lakers meanwhile are having team meeting after team meeting to try and move past that pressure. Its’ not a good situation.

3. Bad Blood Is Fun: Paul Pierce and Metta World Peace know each other. They know most everything about each other. And yet they will have the same battle they’ve had for years. Artest will battle and body him. Pierce will draw fouls and create space. This game could hinge on which Pierce shows up. If it’s the tired, worn-out Pierce that can’t hit water if he fell out of a boat, it could get bad. If it’s the Pierce that loves beating the Lakers and has been showing up over the past month, this game is going to be tight, exciting and primed for a dose of the Truth.

4. Being Taller Is Better: Kevin Garnett plays center at times. Chris Wilcox has been out, Brandon Bass is a stretch four in the purest sense. Stiemsma is not a good matchup. The Lakers have the tallest and arguably best frontcourt in the league. The Celtics are going to have to swarm them immediately in the post and hope to create a bad night for them.

5. Which Masked Mamba?: Kobe Bryant is everything for everyone this season. Scoring 40 points, averaging 30-ish. Shooting a ton. Getting Bynum involved at times. Ignoring him at others. Hitting incredible shots. Missing stupid shots. (Hint: they look the same.) If the Celtics-killing, jaw-jutting, most-dangerous-man-in-the-game shows up, the Celtics might as well pack it in and go home. If the gunning, turnover-prone, reminder-of-age shows up, the Celtics could exploit the Lakers’ tendencies and run away on the road. There’s no way to stop Kobe. You just have to hope the bad version shows up.

  1. keyshawn22 - Mar 11, 2012 at 3:03 PM

    Lets go Celtics!! Its time to smack these Laker clowns around.

    KG/Ray/Pierce > the masked garter snake/bynum/sideshow bob

    • losangelasbasketball - Mar 11, 2012 at 4:03 PM

      celtics have no bench… lakers would get 4 in a hypothetical series no problem…

      • jjordannba - Mar 11, 2012 at 7:02 PM

        The Celtics bench is clearly better than the Lakers bench, Aren’t the Lakers known for having the worst bench crew this season

      • bozosforall - Mar 12, 2012 at 3:45 PM

        That must make the Lakers starters way better than the Celtics starters, given the fact that the Lakers have won the last three meetings between the two teams.

  2. lucidsportsfan - Mar 11, 2012 at 3:19 PM

    Wilcox being out is a BIG deal for Boston. They tend to get dominated in the paint when they play the Lakers recently, and now they have basically no centers. Rondo should step up as he often does in big games, and hopefully the big 3 will continue to play as if their time together is running out http://www.lucidsportsfan.com/2012_03_11_archive.html#2264974298707708252

  3. chargerdillon - Mar 11, 2012 at 3:26 PM

    The Lakers are a bad road team this year and they already beat Boston in Boston.

    Now the Lakers are at home where they’ve almost been unbeatable. The Celtics are going to get smashed unless Kobe decides to shoot 2 for 40 which is absolutlely a possibility for him this year.

    Make no mistake, Gasol gets up for the Celtics because of all the “soft” BS he’s taken in direct play with the Celtics. Bynum is also becoming the young scoirng machine ownership thought he could be.

    Celtics, don’t nustle me up take your beatdown and go back to beantown

    • jjordannba - Mar 11, 2012 at 7:03 PM

      I didn’t see a beatdown

      • fouldwimmerlaik - Mar 11, 2012 at 10:19 PM

        Regardless. Boston got beaten anyway.

  4. ksallis - Mar 11, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    man i miss the nfl. basketball is not watchable!

  5. laughsatyou - Mar 12, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    Celtics really looked old today and it was against a slow Laker team. Ainge better look towards the future and make some moves before the deadline. They really have no shot this year so why not get what you can even if it means taking less for your old stars. Being bad for a year or two and getting good draft picks is so much better than being average and getting bounced in the first round.

    • bozosforall - Mar 12, 2012 at 3:47 PM

      The Celtics are going to suck for a long time. There isn’t another KG for McHale to just give away to his former team for nothing on the Rockets this time.

  6. velascochad - Mar 12, 2012 at 2:32 AM

    “There’s no way to stop Kobe. You just have to hope the bad version shows up”

    i agree on this one good thing the-most-dangerous-man-in-the-game showed up.

  7. bozosforall - Mar 12, 2012 at 3:51 PM

    End of an Era: This is the end of Lakers-Celtics 2000′s. A rivalry reborn in 2008 when they met in the Finals, a series famous for a dramatic Lakers collapse, Paul Pierce‘s wheelchair episode which Lakers fans hold onto like a pitbull with flank steak, and the celebration of Garnett, Pierce, and Allen in their first championship. The rivalry took a year off, most believe due to a Kevin Garnett knee injury which ended his season in April. And then of course the 2010 re-match, a Lakers victory famous for Kendrick Perkins‘ knee injury which gave the Celtics their out card, Ron Artest’s biggest play as a Laker, and a big revenge game for Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. But it’s a near-lock these teams will not look the same next year.

    Moore is obviously a Celtics fan. He ignores that with Bynum injured in 2008, the Celtics got a free shot at winning the title. Moore conveniently uses Perkins’ injury to justify the Celtics collapse in 2010, in the same paragraph, further illustrating his gross hypocrisy.

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