The arch-rivals will lock horns once again this season, as the Los Angeles Lakers (30-35; 26-38-1 ATS) host the Boston Celtics (40-26; 32-32-2 ATS) at Staples Center Saturday night. The Lakers shocked the Celtics at TD Garden on February 7, 2019, defeating them 129-128 as 9-point underdogs with Rajon Rondo’s buzzer-beater.
While the Celtics have had some ups and down over the last few weeks, the Lakers have been a complete disaster. LeBron James and his teammates have won only two of their last ten games and will almost certainly miss the postseason. The Celtics are still holding the No. 5 seed in the East, trying to improve and earn the home advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Celtics are coming in full strength, as Kyrie Irving (thigh) should be ready to go after sitting out in Sacramento on Wednesday. The Lakers are struggling with injuries, and Brandon Ingram (shoulder), Lance Stephenson (toe), and Kyle Kuzma (ankle) are all listed as questionable, while Lonzo Ball (ankle) and Tyson Chandler (neck) are both out.
Boston opened as a 3.5-point fave with the money line odds at -180, while the Lakers are +145 money line dogs. The bookies are still waiting to set the total due to the Lakers’ unclear situation with injured players, and I expect it around 230.0 points. The Celtics are 3-4 straight up 2-4-1 ATS in their last seven games overall, while the Lakers are 1-6 straight up and 0-7 ATS in their previous seven outings. The under has hit in Boston’s last six showings and in six of the Lakers’ previous nine outings.
What’s at Stake?
The Celtics are just one game behind the Philadelphia 76ers and two games behind the Indiana Pacers, so they desperately need to stay on the winning path. On the other side, the Lakers are 6.5 games behind the No. 8 seed in the West, and their season seems ruined. However, this is the greatest rivalry in the Association, so the stake is huge for both teams.
Boston is coming off back-to-back wins at Golden State 128-95 and Sacramento 111-109 to boost its confidence. The Celtics are on a four-game journey at the west coast, but they will stay in Los Angeles to meet the Clippers Monday night. The Lakers are riding a four-game losing streak with some awful team synergy. After the clash with Boston, they will hit the road and play their next five games on the east coast, starting from Tuesday when they visit Chicago.
The Los Angeles Lakers are allowing 109.1 points per 100 possessions (13th in the league), but their defense has been terrible over the last 15 games, surrendering 116.5 points per 100 possessions (29th in the league). During that 15-game span, the Lakers are allowing 52.5 points in the paint (27th) and 19.0 fast break points (28th), while recording just 5.4 steals (tied-29th) and 4.4 blocks (tied-24th). They look completely strayed, as we could see Kyle Kuzma pushing LeBron James to his back to play defense, and it seems there is no way back for the Lakers this season.
On the other side, the Boston Celtics are so unpredictable. After five losses in six games, they’ve thrashed off the Warriors in Oakland, dropping 73 first-half points on the hapless reigning champions. Gordon Hayward has scored 30 points on excellent 12-of-16 shooting from the field, while he’s averaging 12.4 points per contest over his last ten outings. Kyrie Irving has accounted for 19 points and 11 assists against the Warriors, and Uncle Drew is averaging 21.9 points and 7.4 assists over his previous seven appearances.
LeBron James has become the 4th-best scorer in the history of the league, surpassing Michael Jordan on the list, and he should be motivated to put on a strong performance against the Celtics. James is averaging 27.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 10.3 assists in his last ten outings which are all great numbers, but the Lakers continue to sink. Brandon Ingram has been terrific over his last eight showings, tallying 25.6 points per game on 56.1% shooting from the field, and the Lakers desperately need him on the floor tonight.
If the Celtics replicate their offensive performance from the matchup with the Warriors, LeBron and the Lakers will be in big trouble. And, if Ingram and Kuzma both stay sidelined, the Lakers will lack firepower offensively to keep the pace with Boston.
We’ve seen some upsetting results around the Association over the last few weeks, but the Celtics should really satisfy the odds on this one. If they want to move up on the Eastern Conference standings, the victory over the hapless Lakers is a must. I don’t think they will blow away their rivals, as the Lakers will try their best in front of the home audience, but I’m taking the visitors to cover.
This should a high-scoring affair, considering the Lakers’ defensive problems, while they play at a very fast pace. However, without Kuzma and Ingram, I don’t think the Lakers can score enough to lift the total in the over. The betting trends are suggesting the under that has hit in four of the last six H2H meetings between the Celtics and the Lakers.
If you want some greater wages, take the Celtics to win along with the under on the total or pick the winning margin within six and ten points.