Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics Preview and Pick

L.A. Lakers +5.5 (39-9) at Boston Celtics -5.5 (41-9) O/U 204 8 PM EST Wednesday February 5, 2009 on TNT
\By Jason Green at Predictem.com

Tonight the L.A. Lakers travel cross-country to play the defending champion Boston Celtics. Man, what a game! Besides a game between two old rivals and a match up of last year’s finals this game has a couple of interesting subplots. In last year’s final the Celtics won because they could bully the Lakers without their C Andrew Bynum in the lineup. Bynum recently injured his knee again and will be out for this game. Also, the Celtics had their 19 game win streak snapped on Christmas day to the Lakers on the left coast. Now the Celtics are in the midst of a 12 game winning streak and play the Lakers, but this time they are at home.

Both teams are running away with their respective divisions, as the Lakers lead the Pacific Division by 12.5 games over the Phoenix Suns and the Celtics have the Atlantic Division in the bag, as they lead the Atlantic Division by 16.5 games over the Philadelphia 76ers.

This season the Celtics are 24-2 at home and the Lakers are 16-5 away from La La land.

Online Sportsbooks have the Celtics as 5.5 point favorites with a total around 204.

The Lakers come into this game after beating the Toronto Raptors last night 115-107. Yeah, Kobe was the high scorer going for 36 points on 13/28 shooting, but Pau Gasol also had a huge game going for 31 points and grabbing 15 boards. For the game the Lakers shot 45/89 for a FG% of 50.6%. On D the Lakers allowed the Raptors to shoot 42/90 for a FG% of 46.7%.

The Celtics come into this game after thrilling 100-99 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night, as Ray Allen buried a 3 pointer with .5 seconds left. The high scorer for the Celtics in that game was Paul Pierce going for 29 points on 10/23 shooting. On D the Celtics allowed the 76ers to shoot 37/83 for a FG% of 44.6%.

This season the Lakers are the highest scoring team in the league (108.9 ppg) and the Celtics rank 9th (101.3 ppg). Even though the Lakers are averaging more points the Celtics are shooting a better team FG% (48.4% to 47.9%). On D is where the Celtics shine, as they rank 2nd in the NBA in opponents scoring (91.5 ppg) and the Lakers rank 16th (100 ppg). Both teams are legit on the boards, as the Celtics have a rebounding differential of +5.5 rpg and the Lakers are at +3.3 rpg.

This season the Lakers are 24-23 ATS and the Celtics are 27-22-1. In terms of Over/Under games the Lakers are 29-18 and the Celtics are 22-27-1.

On the injury front C Andrew Bynum is Out for the Lakers and SG Tony Allen and PF Kevin Garnett are day-to-day for the Celtics.

The last time the Lakers played in Boston they had confetti rained on them, as Boston had just clinched their 17th NBA championship.

The Lakers have to play good perimeter D on both Paul Pierce (19.4 ppg) and Ray Allen (18.1 ppg), who have been on fire during the current Celtics winning streak.

Boston’s D is legit, but they probably need to worry more about Pau Gasol (18.1 ppg) than Kobe (27.5 ppg). Kobe will get his points no matter who guards him, but the Celtics cannot let Gasol have a huge scoring game or allow him to dominate the glass.

Without Bynum in the middle the Celtics will attack the rim and the Lakers need to play good interior D and not get pushed around. Kevin Garnett (16.3 ppg) will be happy not to see the 7-footer in the middle of the lane. If KG has a big game in the paint and the Lakers drop down to defend him they will leave Pierce and Allen with open looks at 3-point bombs.

Also, If Celtics C Kendrick Perkins (8.2 ppg 8 rpg) dominates inside the Lakers will be cooked.

The Lakers also cannot let Rajon Rondo (11.2 ppg 8.1 assists per game) penetrate and socre and dish out to the long bombers.

The Lakers have to play good all around defense in order to pull off the upset tonight in Beantown.

This may be another finals’ preview, but Bynum was the missing piece last year for the Lakers and he may be the missing piece, yet again, in tonight’s game.

Jason’s Pick: The Celtics are likely to win this one straight up but I’m not comfortable making a prediction against the spread here.