The Celtics Spotted Them a Quarter Last Time
92-131—that was the score of the last meeting between the Celtics and the Lakers in game six of the 2008 NBA Finals. Six months later, the two teams meet again for an NBA Finals rematch. 5pm on Thursday, December 25th, the two best teams in the NBA square off and give us all a reason to start Christmas dinner at about 3:30. Merry Christmas from the NBA to you.
But, what’s going to be different on Christmas day? I mean, that was a 39-point victory.
One of the big stories of this game—this season, really—will be and is Rajon Rondo. Thus far, this season has been his coming-out party. He has stepped up in big games. On December 3rd, he recorded his first triple double, notching 17 assists against Indiana. He truly shines in transition. At 2.3 steals per game, the Celtics generate offense from the turnovers he forces. The Lakers have no chance if they can’t manage to keep Rondo out of the paint. Even though he himself does not score much, he has a lot to do with the flow of the Celtics’ offense.
L.A.’s man-of-the-year will surely come into this game focused. Kobe Bryant is coming out every night and playing some of the most efficient basketball of his career. His turnover numbers are the lowest they’ve been since he became a starter 10 years ago. At 25 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists a night, Kobe is no joke. You heard that, Shaq? So stop asking him how your ass tastes. Expect his new big man, Pau Gasol, to deliver his usual numbers of 18 and 9.
Ray Allen has been on fire of late and Paul Pierce is always one free-throw line jump shot away from going on a scoring spree. With Rondo running the floor the way he has been, Allen, Pierce, and Garnett have the luxury of being spot up shooters.
Andrew Bynum is now healthy. At 13 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks a game, he is a solid contributor to the Lakers success. The matchup between Kendrick Perkins (8 points and 8 rebounds a night) and Bynum will have a lot to do with which team wins the battle of the boards as they both act as clean-up men in the paint.
This Christmas day game will give fans a chance to see the progress of Phil Jackson’s Lamar Odom experiment. This season, Jackson has Odom coming off the bench to anchor the Lakers 2nd team. While his points per game are at a career low, the Lakers’ success with him as a sixth man cannot be overlooked.
There is a possibility that the Celtics will come into it on a record breaking hot streak and may view this outing as just one more game on their quest to repeat and the Lakers might not view this game as an opportunity to exact revenge. Believe that jive if you want—this game will have playoff-level intensity.
-The acquisition of Jason Richardson has shown promise for the Phoenix Suns. Out of 3 games, Richardson has scored 18 points a night on 14 shots. All three games were close, and their one loss was against the surging Trail Blazers. Depending on how well Richardson can fit in and how much he can contribute, this trade might become one of the more important moves of the season. And Shaq is playing like he’s young again. Look out for the Suns.
-Chris Paul has a very special record: he is currently (as of Dec. 19th) at 106 straight games with at least one steal. One word for that: consistent.
Games to Watch
Houston v. Cleveland (Tuesday, December 23 at 7pm)—LeBron James’ feet will be moving on defense chasing Tracy McGrady all over the court and he will have the pleasure of Ron Artest’s company on offense. The Yao Ming v. either Anderson Varejao or Ben Wallace match-up is easily explained: not tall enough. Hopefully, Ilgauskas will be back by then.
L. A. Lakers v. New Orleans (Tuesday, December 23 at 8pm)—The Hornets did not fare as well as they might have hoped against the Celtics last week, but this will give them another chance to show good they really are. With a point guard like Chris Paul, though, anything is possible.
L. A. Lakers v. Boston (Thursday, December 25 at 5pm)—Please see above. This is easily the biggest game on the NBA regular season schedule this year.