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.

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia was focused on winning, not streak

Quotes, notes and stars: Pedroia was focused on winning, not streak

BOSTON -- Quotes, notes and stars from the Red Sox’ 8-3 win over the Royals:

QUOTES

“I hadn’t really thought about it. Trying to win games. It’s late in the year . . . I don’t really have time to sit back and pat myself on the back for anything. We’re trying to win as a team.” - Dustin Pedroia on the importance of the 11-for-11 stretch in his career.

“It’s fun. It’s why you go to work in December, January, February. It’s all the work you put in up to this point. It feels good to go out there and get the results you expect to get, especially against a team like [the Royals] who is hot as they are right now.” - David Price on pitching meaningful games with a playoff-like atmosphere.

“Yeah, yeah we [knew about the streak] . . .  It was an awesome roll and it was fun to see . . . Every time I went up to hit, I let Salvador Perez know.” - Xander Bogaerts on Dustin Pedroia’s 11-for-11 streak.

“I think we’ve been able to handle velocity very well. We’ve got good bat-speed in out lineup, and we’re able to handle that.” - John Farrell on the offense thriving against good pitching.

 

NOTES

* David Ortiz played in his 1,000th game at Fenway Park, becoming the fifth player to do so.

* Ortiz also became the first player ever to play 2,000 games as the designated hitter.

* Mookie Betts scored his 100th run of the season off his 29th home run of the year, joining Fred Lynn, Johnny Pesky and Ted Williams as the only players to reach 100 runs before turning 24.

* The Red Sox hit back-to-back home runs for the fourth time this season with Betts and Hanley Ramirez going yard in the fifth.

* With his 2-for-4 day at the plate, Jackie Bradley Jr. improved to 34-for-94 (.362) batting ninth.

 

STARS

1) Dustin Pedroia

Pedroia finished 4-for-5, extending his streak to 11 hits in 11 at-bats, finishing one shy of tying the MLB record.

2) David Price

Price logged his fourth straight quality start with his six-inning, two-run start. He also dropped his ERA below 4.00 for the first time since his Opening Day start with Boston.

3) Salvador Perez

Perez finished 2-for-3 with two home runs. Saturday marked only the second multi-home run game of his career.