Tonight on NBA on TNT viewers are in for a good old fashioned barn burner. The fourth stop of the Lakers‘ annual Grammy road trip finds them in Bean Town ready to battle with their most arch rival, the Boston Celtics.
Where do I begin breaking down tonight’s matchup? Father Time, trade rumors, championships, and oh yeah, maybe a little basketball too. One thing is for certain, at 8:00PM EST basketball fans are in for a real treat. The Celtics are on a 7-1 tear over the last 8 games holding opponents to a very respectable, 81 PPG. The Lakers come into Boston well rested on the heels of a tough loss at the hands of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Tonight’s game will look as much like playoff basketball as any matchup we have seen so far this season. Given the age and style of both teams you can expect to see a slow, grinding, game that will be won or lost on the glass.
KEY MATCHUPS: The Lakers need big showings out of Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace on the defensive end. Their numbers may be in decline this year, but you can bet you will see solid, if not great, play out of both Garnet and Pierce tonight. Pay special attention to Kobe Bryant vs Pietrus coming off the bench. Michael Pietrus has been a wrecking ball in the Celtics second unit and made a name for himself in the 2009 NBA Finals when he demonstrated his unique ability to disrupt Kobe Bryant on the offensive end.
No matter your rooting interest, tonight’s game has all the makings for one of the best knockdown, drag out, games we will see this regular season. Be sure and tune in to TNT at 8:00 ET so you don’t miss a minute of the action!
For those Celtics fans out there, just listen to the words of Larry Legend.
@FrancoisMark on Twitter
LeBron James- Miami Heat SF (19-7)
28.5 points: 56.4% FG, 38.6% 3p FG, 74.9% FT
LeBron says he is an “easy target” for criticism, in the wake of Kendrick Perkins and Larry Legend landing two very different types of ‘hay-makers’ at his sensitive psyche. Well, time for you to get your props, Mr. James. We all witnessed that NBA Finals meltdown against the Mavericks last June. No need to re-hash that, as LeBron has come back with a vengeance. The 2-time NBA MVP has actually managed to increase his career scoring, largely in Wade’s absence (Heat were 7-1 with LeBron leading w/Wade out w/injury), is right on par with his career average in assists (7APG), and has managed to increase his rebounds (8.2>7). Say what you want about his tweeting, posing, and “playing the game for fun”, LeBron is the clear-cut favorite for MVP this year. Real recognizes real, and in the regular season, LeBron is the truth. All those folks that love seeing him fail had better absorb/enjoy it while it lasts. With the West looking wide open, and the Chicago Bulls’ collective health being an ultimate question, we may be ‘witnessing’ a few big celebrations (for James) that would finally bring validity to his self-assigned nickname.
Chris Paul- Los Angeles Clippers PG (15-8)
18.4 points: 50.4% FG, 47% 3p FG, 83% FT
Full disclosure, CP3 was my preseason prediction for MVP. Some laughed, but it really wasn’t all that much of a stretch. The Clippers have been the butt of NBA jokes for the better part of 30 years, and even with the added pieces, the expectation/pressure surely wouldn’t be as high as that of James’. Definitely not taking anything away from Paul, just placing perspective. All that said, CP3 is back to playing like the best point guard in the league. Whether this label is aided by Derrick Rose being beaten up, is an argument for another day. The Clippers are in 1st place in the Pacific Division, and don’t look like they are going anywhere anytime soon. With Chauncey Billups being lost for the season (torn achilles), CP3 has the opportunity to truly prove his winning mettle and poise. The Clippers’ progress and ultimate success may ultimately decide this race.
Kevin Durant- Oklahoma City SF (20-5)
27.3 points: 50.4% FG, 32.5% 3p FG, 81.1% FT
Durant fans won’t want to hear it, but Russell Westbrook‘s emergence as a legitimate star ultimately hurts KD’s chances at the league’s MVP. Fair or not, Westbrook’s improved play may siphon off some of his votes. That said, Durant is a scoring beast. Most impressively, Durant doesn’t seem to be a guy that cares about individual accomplishments. OKC fans are definitely thankful of that fact. The guy is a walking/talking/balling daily reminder to Trail Blazers fans of just how big of a mistake their previous GM Kevin Pritchard (Oden>Durant). Not to rub salt in in any wounds, as Porty has a NICE squad. Just sayin’, folks in Portland clinging to those old/tattered Sam Bowie jerseys still have yet to recover. I will say, while not criticizing Durant, I’d be remiss not to mention the fact that he doesn’t receive anywhere near the scrutiny of players like Kobe and LeBron. If he did, ESPN, Twitter, and the blogging world would rant and rave about his low career assists numbers (2.7 apg) even with the slight improvement in that department (so far) this season.
22 points: 46.2% FG, 31% 3p FG, 84.1% FT
Derrick needs some help. Strange way to start an MVP candidate explanation, but the facts are the facts. Chicago has done a decent job at throwing together a few cats that were once-good or almost-good at this point, but none of them are good enough to warrant being called an NBA Title-contending roster. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to determine that asking SO much from one player (smaller guard, at that) is simply too much to ask. It is unrealistic to think one guy can dance under so much water and not get wet. The injury bug has limited his numbers, but he still deserves to be in the conversation if only based upon his team’s overall record.
29.3 points: 44.4% FG, 30% 3p FG, 84.5% FT
Second verse, same as the first? Kobe needs some help. Sounds even crazier, when you consider the fact that he has Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol towering around the court with him. Problem is, Andrew Goudelock (a rookie) has been their most consistent and reliable 4th option on a team that was once considered one of the deepest in the league. Rumors of trades for Superman-lite and just about every other scrap-heap guard in the league won’t change Kobe’s approach. In his 16th season, Bryant is still bringing it at MVP levels each night. Plenty of folks will point towards the questionable record, but those that have watched each game would tell you the Lakers might be something closer to 8-17 without Kobe going to work with such regularity.
Jabari A. Davis
RealTalkOnSprts on Twitter
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