Celtics-Lakers: Keep your eye on . . .

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Celtics-Lakers: Keep your eye on . . .

BOSTON The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers look to renew one of the NBA's oldest rivalries tonight.

And they'll do it with teams that have quite a few new faces.

Getting those new bodies up to speed has been challenging for both teams.

The Celtics (14-10) seem to have found that groove they were looking for, winning their last five games, and nine of the last 10.

Meanwhile, the Lakers (14-11) come in trying to avoid a third straight loss which would match their longest losing streak of the season.

Winning is important for both teams, but they understand that the condensed schedule makes it challenging to develop the kind of rhythm teams seek in a short period of time.

"To find the continuity, to find out where we need to be at this point in the season, it's gonna take some time," said Lakers first-year coach Mike Brown. "We're Ok where we're sitting now. I wish we had a few more wins. But we're still in learning mode, and I'm sure most teams are."

Tonight's game will be another opportunity for both teams to not just win a game, but improve moving forward.

Here are some of the factors that will likely impact tonight's outcome.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR - Tonight's game should be a low scoring affair. Now normally that's a good thing for Boston, which comes in giving up an NBA-low 86.5 points per game. The Lakers have started to buy into new coach Mike Brown's defensive principles, and the result has been a Lakers squad that's No. 4 in the league in fewest points allowed (91) per game.

MATCHUP TO WATCH - Kevin Garnett vs. Pau Gasol: Garnett has been on an incredibly hot streak at both ends of the floor, providing the Celtics with the kind of end-to-end game that they desperately need for him to deliver. Meanwhile, Gasol continues to be the subject of trade rumors. And while he says he tries not to let it affect, he's averaging a career-low 16 points per game. It's hard to imagine that the one year where he's a focal point of trade talk, just so happens to be the same year in which he struggles offensively.
PLAYER TO WATCH - Rajon Rondo has steadily regained the form we saw prior to his right wrist injury. But he hasn't had the breakout-type game he's so overdue to have. Tonight could be that night, especially against Derek Fisher who is still a solid defender, but has clearly lost a step or two.
STAT TO TRACK - One of the Celtic's strengths of late has been their ability to score in the paint. During their current five-game winning streak, Boston has outscored opponents by 4.8 points per game, in the paint. With the Lakers' Twin Towers of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, points in the paint will be hard to come by for Boston.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hornets

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hornets

Tune into CSN to watch the Celtics host the Hornets at TD Garden. You can also click here to watch the Celtics livestream presented by McDonald's on the NBC Sports App. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live Presented by ACE Ticket.

- Game Preview: C's, Hornets heading in opposite directions

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

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- Live Extra FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Celtics: All of the most recent news and notes

- Talk about the game via social media on CSN's Pulse, presented by Ford

Celtics-Hornets preview: Boston, Charlotte heading in opposite directions

Celtics-Hornets preview: Boston, Charlotte heading in opposite directions

BOSTON -- The last time Boston saw the Charlotte Hornets last month, both teams were streaking in the wrong direction with each coming in having lost three in a row.

Both come into tonight’s game streaking, although in two very different directions.

Boston (25-15) has won 12 of its last 15 games to firmly establish itself as the third-best team in the East behind Cleveland and Toronto. Meanwhile the Hornets (20-20) are on the cusp of falling below .500 for the first time this season after losing their last four games.

Still, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has seen enough of this Hornets team to know that a win tonight won’t come easily.

“This is a good team,” Stevens said. “We all know Charlotte. They don’t beat themselves. We’ve had to play really well against those guys. This is going to be a tough one, as we all know.”

Figuring out why these two teams are trending in opposite directions isn’t all that complicated.

For the Celtics, their success of late has hinged heavily on their ability to make 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s problems have had a lot to do with a tough slate of road games (all four of their recent losses were on the road) and their inability to make shots which has been an issue in some form for them all season regardless of the opponent.

Look at the last four games, all of which the Hornets lost while the Celtics won three of their four games in that span.

The Hornets rank 21st in scoring with a 101.5 points per game average while the Celtics average 110.8 points which ranks 8th in the league.

Charlotte ranks dead-last in the league the last four games when it comes to shooting the ball (40.5 percent), while Boston comes in 18th at 46.0 percent.

But it’s the 3-point shot and its impact on having an effective field goal percentage, that really separates these two.

Boston has averaged a league-best 15.3 made 3-pointers in the last four games while the Hornets and their 9.8 made 3’s ranks 20th.

And as far as its impact on eFG%, Boston comes in with the eighth-best eFG% in the league (54.8 percent) while the Hornets next-to-last in the NBA with an eFG% of .462.

So what does that mean tonight?

Boston will look to continue being fueled offensively by good ball movement and attacking the rim which in turn should result in lots of good looks from 3-point range which is clearly a strength of this team.

Charlotte will search for other sources of offense besides former UConn star Kemba Walker who is on the short list of candidates for a spot on this year’s Eastern Conference all-star roster.

As was the case in Charlotte’s 102-93 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, an off-night shooting for Walker (17 points, 7-for-23 shooting with three assists) left the Hornets extremely vulnerable to defeat. Similar struggles tonight will provide a similar ending for Charlotte which would allow both teams to continue streaking along … something the Celtics wouldn’t mind at all.