The Boston Celtics are the hottest team in the NBA and will try to push their winning streak to double digits when they host the rival Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday. The Celtics dropped their first two games after watching swingman Gordon Hayward go down with a gruesome injury but put the pieces back together and ripped off wins in the next nine contests.
“The only thing that really matters is us handling our preparation, understanding the trust that we continue to build from one another, and the expectations we have within this locker room are reality based,” Boston point guard Kyrie Irving told reporters after Monday’s 110-107 win at Atlanta. “We know what we want to accomplish but it starts with not taking any moment for granted and understanding we gotta continue to get better.” Monday’s win snapped a string of eight straight games holding opponents under 100 points for the Celtics, who lead the NBA in scoring defense (94.5). The Lakers are not quite as sharp on the defensive end, surrendering an average of 107.3 points, but did enough on the other end of the floor to win three of their last four games. Rookie point guard Lonzo Ball is the one initiating that offense but is not having much success scoring and is shooting 29.9 percent from the floor on the season, including 6-of-30 over the last three games.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet (Los Angeles)
ABOUT THE LAKERS (5-5): Ball is averaging 6.9 assists and 6.4 rebounds in 33 minutes and handed out nine assists in Sunday’s 107-102 win over Memphis, but he went 1-of-8 from 3-point range in that game. “He’s been a little down on himself a little bit with the season he’s having,” fellow rookie Kyle Kuzma told the LA Daily News of Ball. “Of course he wants to play a lot better. I just try to tell him to be more aggressive on the floor. ... Once he’s confident in his game he’s pretty hard to guard.” Kuzma is taking over the rookie scoring load for the Lakers and is up to an average of 15.4 points on the season after putting up a combined 72 points on 29-of-45 shooting in the last four games.
ABOUT THE CELTICS (9-2): Boston could have drafted Ball with the No. 1 overall pick but instead traded down to the No. 3 spot and picked up forward Jayson Tatum, who is averaging 14.3 points on 50 percent shooting, including 52.9 percent from 3-point range. Tatum recorded 21 points on 7-of-13 shooting and added eight rebounds in Monday’s win while frontcourt mate Al Horford finished an assist shy of a triple-double. Horford had to settle for his fourth double-double of the campaign and is averaging 14.6 points and 9.2 rebounds while shooting 47.4 percent from beyond the arc.
1. Celtics PF Marcus Morris (knee soreness) sat out Monday but is expected to return on Wednesday.
2. Los Angeles C Brook Lopez is averaging 27.3 points over the last three games.
3. Boston took both meetings last season and three straight in the series.
PREDICTION: Celtics 100, Lakers 90