Markieff Morris (ankle) is questionable after sitting in LA’s Tuesday win over Charlotte. Andre Drummond (toe), Kyle Kuzma (calf), Marc Gasol (hamstring), Wesley Matthews (achilles) and Dennis Schroder (pelvis) are probable.
Evan Fournier (COVID protocol) is out for Boston.
According to the online sports book Betonline.ag, the Celtics are 6.0 point favorites.
- Celtics vs. Lakers spread: Celtics -6
- Celtics vs. Lakers over-under: 212.5 points
- Celtics vs. Lakers money line: Celtics -250, Lakers +210
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
G: Kemba Walker
G: Marcus Smart
SF: Jayson Tatum
PF: Jaylen Brown
C: Robert Williams III
G: Dennis Schroder
G: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
SF: Talen Horton-Tucker
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: Andre Drummond
The Celtics have reached three games over .500 for the first time since Feb. 5 during Boston’s previous trip to Staples Center. Their four-game win streak is the first since the end of February for a team that’s been stuck at .500 for most of the season. A win tonight would give Boston its best win percentage of the season.
LA is 6-7 since losing LeBron James to a high ankle sprain. Anthony Davis is nearing a return from an achilles strain; he will miss his 28th straight game tonight. The Lakers are 13-14 without Davis, relying on their sturdy defense that’s held up thanks to Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and buyout addition Andre Drummond. Drummond is a physical rebounder that will challenge Robert Williams III on the offensive glass. Tristan Thompson and Drummond played together last year in Cleveland.
The Celtics hoped to acquire Drummond after the Cavaliers bought him out to solidify their defense and rebounding (31.8 DRB%). He’s done that in LA with a 98 defensive rating in his minutes. His 88 offensive rating, in turn, is astounding in a NBA where teams score 110-111 points every night.
The Lakers have been narrowly outscored by 0.8 points per 100 possessions since losing James, but still boast the second best defensive rating in the NBA over that stretch (104.2). Their offense is comparably bad, 29th in offensive rating (103.4), last in turnover percentage (18.1%) and 26th in effective field goal shooting (51.6%).
Jayson Tatum is back to February, 2020 form on offense, with 30.0 points (6th in NBA), 8.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists per game while hitting 50.8% of his field goals. Tatum relied on unsustainable 48.1% three-point shooting to score 30.7 PPG that month. We’re still talking one month compared to one week and change though. Tatum’s turnovers have risen with his greater assist output, and his steal and block output hasn’t approached what it did during the best month of his career. There is room to grow for the eastern conference player of the week.
We may see that in the postseason when Boston fully locks in on the defensive end. We’ve seen a preview as they’ve managed to hold opponents to 107.1 points per 100 possessions since the deadline, good for fifth in the NBA. What’s important now is Tatum’s fixation on getting to the line. While his 7.6 free throw attempts per game is in line with his February, 2020 output, the 34 in his last three games is the most over that stretch of his career. He’s hit 87.3% of them this season.
Tatum still needs to find ways to consistently unlock teammates while garnering the pressure he does from defenses. Kemba Walker has locked in on that as his way to contribute, with 22 assists and six turnovers during this three game dominant stretch for Boston’s offense.
Marcus Smart is shooting less and focusing on defense, while Jaylen Brown opens the transition game. Williams III has posted 34 assists and 11 turnovers as a starter in 10 games. Boston’s offense, seventh in points per 100 this month, finally looks focused around concrete roles.
This one will be close, too close for the line. An under is enticing for teams this good defensively of rate though that both scored fewer than 100 points last time they met.
Boston 106, Los Angeles 100 (28–19, 20-24 ATS)