Celtics Host Defending Champion Lakers in Hopes of Snapping Losing Skid

Celtics Host Defending Champion Lakers in Hopes of Snapping Losing Skid The Celtics have lost back-to-back games, and it's not getting any easier from here. Bring on the defending champions.

With the C's returning home to the TD Garden this Sunday afternoon, it's time for their first meeting with the Los Angeles Lakers, and they're headed to the Garden desperate for a win over an elite team. First the Magic got the best of them, then the Hawks did the same. If the Celtics want to make a statement win, they've got to do it now.

When and Where

Sunday, Jan. 31, 3:30 p.m. ET (ABC)
TD Garden, Boston, Mass.

Records

Celtics (29-15, First place in Atlantic Division, third place in Eastern Conference)
Lakers (36-11, First place in Pacific Division, first place in Western Conference)

Head to Head

Obviously, these two teams have a long-standing rivalry, which most recently manifested itself in a six-game NBA Finals in the summer of 2008. The Celtics came out on top then, but since then, the Lakers have had their number. L.A. swept their two meetings last season, winning 92-83 at the Staples Center on Christmas Day 2009 and 110-109 in overtime in Boston two months later. This is their first meeting of the 2009-10 season.

Skinny

The Lakers are the defending champions, and they've only gotten better since winning the whole enchilada last June. By adding Ron Artest, they've added a touch of versatility and a whole lot of physicality on defense to an already potent lineup. Kobe Bryant is still as dominant as ever at 31, and he's got a supporting cast around him that's probably the best he's had since Shaquille O'Neal manned the low post in his prime. These Lakers are a serious threat to repeat.

Starting Lineups

Celtics
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Paul Pierce
Power forward: Kevin Garnett
Center: Kendrick Perkins

Lakers
Point guard: Derek Fisher
Shooting guard: Kobe Bryant
Small forward: Ron Artest
Power forward: Pau Gasol
Center: Andrew Bynum

Stat Sheet

Celtics
The Celtics are 10-5 against the Western Conference this season.

They are shooting 48.5 percent from the floor as a team, third-best in the NBA behind Utah and Phoenix.

Kendrick Perkins is shooting an NBA-best 63.1 percent from the floor. Dwight Howard (60.1 percent) is a distant second.

Rajon Rondo
leads the Eastern Conference in assists with 9.6 per game.

Paul Pierce made 12 of 13 free throw attempts in the Celtics' loss to Atlanta on Friday night.

Ray Allen has attempted 212 threes this season, a team-high, and made 74 of them. His 34.9 percent success rate is actually the lowest of his career.

Kevin Garnett finished the month of January with per-game averages of 12.8 ponts and 5.0 rebounds.

Lakers
The Lakers are 13-8 on the road.

They are outscoring their opponents this season by 7.1 points per game, an NBA-best.

Kobe Bryant is fourth in the NBA with 28.2 points per game.

Andrew Bynum leads the Lakers with 72 blocks.

Pau Gasol had 19 points and 10 rebounds in the Lakers' win over the Sixers on Friday night. It was his 19th double-double of the season.

Lamar Odom
has 9.9 rebounds per game this season despite mostly coming off the bench.

Ron Artest has 4.7 rebounds per game, his lowest average since the 2001-02 season.

Black and Blue

Celtics
Marquis Daniels underwent left thumb surgery in December, but his cast is now off and he is working out with the team. He hopes to make his return on Feb. 10.

Lakers
Kobe Bryant has played hurt this month with occasional back spasms. He also broke a finger earlier this season.

Pau Gasol and Sasha Vujacic have both battled hamstring injuries recently.

Ron Artest missed five games in late December and early January with a sprained index finger.

This Date in Celtics History

In 1982, Larry Bird leads the Eastern Conference to victory in the NBA All-Star Game. He scores 19 points, 12 of them in the final six minutes, and the East prevailed in a nail-biter, 120-118 in New Jersey. Larry Legend is named the game's MVP.

Overheard

"When I really look at it, the way I make the All-Star team, pretty much my whole career, I know I’ve earned it. I haven’t been a player that’s been voted in — picked by coaches, you know you’ve really earned it and they think highly of you. They must think highly of me. My whole career has been earning everything I’ve got, not going in the top five in the draft, voted in by the coaches every year. I look at my career as nothing has been given to me. Everything I’ve gotten, I’ve deserved and earned it."
–Rajon Rondo, in Friday's Boston Globe, on being named an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve

Press Box

Celtics
Rajon Rondo is harnessing his star power.

Glen Davis believes in the Saints.

Another Ainge makes a name for himself.

Lakers
Kobe Bryant outdueled Allen Iverson.

The Lakers are ready for the C's.

L.A.'s trade for Pau Gasol changed the NBA landscape.

NBA
What lies ahead for Joe Johnson and the Hawks?

Andre Miller had a career night for Portland.

Gerald Wallace
put on a show for the Bobcats.

Outlook

The Celtics really need this one. Forget pride — more importantly, they need a win to prove they belong among the NBA's best. They couldn't get it done against Orlando, nor against Atlanta, but at home, they might have a shot. Paul Pierce will need to give everything he's got against Kobe Bryant, and the C's will need to match the physicality and intensity that this L.A. team brings to the table. It'll be a challenge, but the Celtics had better rise to the occasion.

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