Andrew Bynum pulls down a rebound in front of the Celtics' Kevin Garnett… (Matt Campbell / EPA) )
1. The Lakers energy level should be there. Who cares if the Lakers play Sunday afternoon, the day everyone loses an hour to daylight saving time. Forget about the Lakers' lackluster focus in their recent three-game trip. Stop worrying about the team dynamics that's featured player frustration regarding Mike Brown's offensive system, film meetings extending into say-what-you-want meetings and whether a trade's happening before the March 15 deadline.
Regardless of their standing within the league, Lakers-Celtics games breed a whole other excitement level. Considering both teams face similar issues in age, offensive efficiency and speed, simply enjoy the final moments of two previously great teams. As Lakers center Andrew Bynum told reporters, "We're going at they head. We're going at the Celtics' rack."
2. This will be one ugly, grind-it-out game. Those looking for highlight reels will walk away disappointed. The Lakers have averaged 94.25 points per game, 19th overall, while Boston ranks 26th with 90.85. The Lakers and Celtics roster feature the Lakers' Derek Fisher (37), Kobe Bryant (33), Metta World Peace (32) and Pau Gasol (31) as well as the Celtics' Ray Allen (36), Kevin Garnett (35) and Paul Pierce (34). And the Lakers' 88-87 victory Feb. 9 against Boston hardly showed much speed and athleticism.
But that's OK. The game instead will feature a hard-fought defensive battle. In the last game, the Lakers secured the win off Bynum's tip-in and Gasol's block on Allen. It's likely such an effort will dictate the outcome. The Celtics rank third in total defense (89.69) and third in opponent field-goal percentage (42%), while the Lakers are eighth in total defense (91.95) and second in opponent field-goal percentage (41.9%).
3. World Peace versus Paul Pierce is the matchup to watch. It's become hard to tell if World Peace will have a breakout game offensively. But based on his performance since the All-Star break, he's been consistently reliable on defense. Last week, World Peace held LeBron James to a 12-of-26 clip, switched effectively on rotations in the paint and perimeter and cross-matched until his teammates properly switched on pick-and-rolls. So it shouldn't be surprising if World Peace can replicate his Game 7 heroics of the 2010 NBA Finals against Pierce, who's averaged 25.8 points on 52.4% shooting in the past five games.
4. The Lakers will see a different Boston front court. The Celtics have recently changed their lineup, moving Kevin Garnett to center and sliding Brandon Bass at power forward. Boston Coach Doc Rivers has told reporters he doesn't like to crossmatch, but it remains to be seen whether that might be a strategy considering the Lakers' front court depth in Bynum and Gasol.
5. Can the Lakers contain Rajon Rondo? In less than a week, the Lakers will officially find out if they can upgrade at point guard. But for now, they're going to have to find ways to hold their own against the league's elite. Rondo's 13 of his 17 career triple-doubles have happened on national television. Considering the stage and the fact that Rondo has been linked in numerous trade talks this season, it wouldn't be surprising if he's geared for a big game. The importance in limiting Rondo can't be overstated. The Celtics are 11-4 this season when Rondo records at least 10 assists, but just 4-10 when he doesn't. In their last matchup, the Lakers held Rondo to 14 points on a seven-of-13 clip on seven dimes. In related news, the Lakers won.