When the Lakers and Celtics played each other in the NBA’s Summer League earlier this year the arena sold out for the first time ever and tv ratings peaked.
That day has arrived. The Lakers will be in Boston for Lonzo Ball’s regular season debut against the Celtics.
Both teams come into this one playing good basketball. The Celtics are the hottest team in the league at the moment, winners of nine games in a row and, before Monday night’s narrow win in Atlanta, winner’s of eight straight against the spread. The Lakers have won two in a row and three of four to run their record back to .500.
Boston comes into this game as healthy as it will be all season, only missing Hayward. The Lakers will be without Larry Nance Jr. for the next month to six weeks as he recovers from surgery to repair a broken hand.
Nance would have been LA’s primary wing defender to man either Brown or Tatum, who have both outperformed their offensive expectations early on this season. Together, they are averaging 30 points per game. The responsibility to stop those two will fall on a combination of Brandon Ingram, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Corey Brewer and Josh Hart. None of those guys can guard the way Nance can, though.
But the marquee matchup will be between Kyrie Irving and Lonzo Ball. Irving has been silky smooth all season, hitting big shot after big shot in the fourth quarter for the Celtics. He’s a gamesman, much like Ball, who leads the Lakers in minutes and assists. He’s unlikely to be at all distracted with the news that his younger brother LiAngelo was arrested in China for shoplifting a Louis Vuitton before UCLA’s season-opener.
Al Horford and Brook Lopez match up well as big inside presences who also like to stretch the floor. Aron Baynes could also get a piece of Lopez if Brad Stevens prefers to put Horford on Julius Randle, who has been off to a good start for the Lakers this season. Randle still doesn’t do much in the half court offense but he runs the floor aggressively and is scoring 11 points per game on over 62 percent shooting from the field. German rookie and backup Daniel Theis will be the perfect answer for Randle, along with Marcus Morris.
I really think this should just be a fantastic basketball game. Both teams match up extremely well with one another. The Celtics are the better team; they have the home court advantage; and Kyrie Irving’s scoring ability will be the difference if and when it’s close in the fourth quarter but I’m giving the Lakers some credit here. They were criticized for trading away DeAngelo Russell for Brook Lopez in the offseason but Lopez’s offensive presence has really helped the young core. I figure the Lakers will compete hard and be able to hold their heads high in a losing effort.
Free Pick: Los Angeles +9