Celtics - Lakers preview: Balancing present and future

Celtics - Lakers preview: Balancing present and future
February 21, 2014, 11:30 am
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LOS ANGELES — As president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics, there's a balance that Danny Ainge seeks to strike when it comes to improving the Celtics for the now and the future.

A similar challenge presents itself for Brad Stevens who knows coaching for the present and the future also go hand-in-hand.

It becomes especially tricky when dealing with a team that's rebuilding the way the Celtics are this season.

"I never have stopped coaching for the now but I never lose sight of coaching for the future," Stevens said. "The reason I say that is you have to coach through the now because you have to do your very best to put your team in the position to play their very best on that given night."

And while the losses have certainly been piling up all season for the Celtics (19-36), there have been few nights where Stevens came away not feeling as though his team gave their best effort and just as important, positioned themselves with a chance to win.

Stevens has maintained all season that victories for this team wouldn't necessarily manifest itself in wins and losses.

Seeing some of the younger players improve is part of this team's narrative for success, although there have been times this year when rookie Kelly Olynyk has seen extensive minutes at the expense of a veteran like Kris Humphries who has arguably been Boston's most consistent player this season.

"There's no emphasis on getting time that is not deserved or earned," Stevens said. "I think the guy that you're asking about is probably Kelly and he's earning it so he's playing more. There are opportunities for those guys. Phil (Pressey) and Chris Johnson are in the rotation. Those are the other young guys on our team. I think it's more about continuing to play good basketball."

And that takes good play and good coaching, in the now and in the future.

Here are some other keys to tonight's game:

WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Boston may have found the elixir to their scoring troubles in this Los Angeles Lakers defense which has provided a boost to the scoring average of just about every team they have faced this season. The Lakers give up 106.2 points per game which is ranked 29th (out of 30 teams) in the NBA.

MATCHUP TO WATCH: Rajon Rondo vs Kendall Marshall

Rondo's return to the floor this year came against Marshall and the Lakers last month. Since then, Rondo's minutes as well as his overall play, have been on the rise. Expect talk of a triple-double for Rondo to start making the social media rounds sometime in the third quarter.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Tonight is yet another one in which Jeff Green has one of the more favorable matchups for Boston. Lately, Green and the Celtics have done a better job of positioning him to be a more consistent scorer. In Boston's last six games, Green has had at least 17 points in all but one of them.

STAT TO TRACK: Defending the 3-point shot will be once again challenging for the Celtics. When the two met in January, the Lakers connected on 60 percent (12-for-20) of their 3s. Meanwhile, the Celtics have become one of the league's worst at defending 3s. Since January, opponents have shot 38.1 percent against Boston from 3-point range which is the league's fourth-worst mark.