Celtics, Lakers completely different from 2010 NBA Finals

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Celtics, Lakers completely different from 2010 NBA Finals

It was only three seasons ago that the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers faced off in a heated Game 7 NBA Finals battle, another chapter in their storied rivalry.

The Lakers captured the trophy in their building, and both teams looked poised to contend again as they left the Staples Center that night.

On Thursday, two very different Celtics and Lakers team will take the court at TD Garden. After years of fighting for homecourt advantage, both clubs are fighting for the playoffs.

The Celtics (25-23) are ranked eighth in the East while the Lakers (23-26) are tenth in the West. Both teams are currently on winning streaks, but both have also struggled with consistency, establishing chemistry with new pieces, and being hit with injuries.

The most glaring difference is not only how the players are performing on the court, but who is on the court. Take a look at how the current Celtics and Lakers teams differ from the squads that fought for it all in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals.

THEN: June 17, 2010

Celtics
Starters: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace

Bench: Glen Davis, Tony Allen, Nate Robinson, Brian Scalabrine

DNP: (coachs decision): Marquis Daniels, Michael Finley, Shelden Williams

Lakers
Starters: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum

Bench: Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Shannon Brown, Josh Powell

DNP: (coachs decision): D.J. Mbenga, Luke Walton

Now: February 7, 2013

Celtics

Still on the Celtics: Garnett, Pierce, Rondo

Still in the NBA: R. Allen (Miami Heat), T. Allen (Memphis Grizzlies), Daniels (Milwaukee Bucks), Davis (Orlando Magic), Robinson (Chicago Bulls), Wallace (New York Knicks)

Out of the NBA: Finley, Scalabrine, Williams

Lakers

Still on the Lakers: Bryant, Gasol, World Peace

Still in the NBA: Brown (Phoenix Suns), Andrew Bynum (Philadelphia 76ers), Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Clippers), Luke Walton (Cleveland Cavaliers)

Out of the NBA: Farmar, Fisher, Mbenga, Powell, Vujacic

Of the six remaining Celtics and Lakers from the 2010 NBA Finals, only four of them will suit up Thursday. Gasol (plantar fascia tear) and Rondo (out for the season, torn ACL) will not.

Six of the current Celtics and Lakers were not in the NBA in 2010. Avery Bradley and Devin Ebanks were drafted just weeks after Game 7, Darius Morris joined the league in 2011, and Fab Melo, Jared Sullinger (out for the season, back) and Robert Sacre were drafted last summer.

At the close of the 2010 NBA season, Garnett had recorded over 22,200 career points. Entering Thursday's game, he is only six shy of 25,000.

Wallace started Game 7 in place of Kendrick Perkins, who injured his knee in Game 6. Perkins currently plays for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Celtics-Cavs Game 4 preview: C's expect an aggressive LeBron

Celtics-Cavs Game 4 preview: C's expect an aggressive LeBron

CLEVELAND -- Marcus Smart made shots, Jonas Jerebko (10 points) outscored the entire Cleveland second unit by himself, and Kevin Love’s hot hand in the first half cooled off considerably in the second.

It was on so many levels the perfect storm for the Boston Celtics in Game 3 which ended with Avery Bradley getting a friendly bounce or two – OK, it was four bounces to be exact – that would be the difference in Boston’s 111-108 Game 3 win, which cut Cleveland’s lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.

But that perfect storm is now a thing of the past, which is why the Celtics are battening down the hatches for Hurricane James – LeBron James – in Game 4.

James scored just 11 points in Game 3 on 4-for-13 shooting.

Certainly, Boston’s defense had a role in James’ struggles.

But after looking to be a facilitator at the start of the game, James never flipped the switch to become a terminator.

So, as his teammates struggled with their shots in the second half, James didn’t ratchet up his aggression level to get buckets and in doing so, was just what the Celtics needed to get a much-needed victory.

Had Boston lost Game 3, this series being over would have been a mere formality with no team in NBA history has ever rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to advance to the next round of play.

But the Celtics are very much alive and well with a chance to even up the series at 2-2 with a victory tonight.

If they are to somehow find a way to beat the Cavs on their home floor a second straight game, it’ll most likely come after fending off a strong surge from James.

This season, James has been an offensive power following games in which he has scored less than 20 points in a game.

In the following game after he scores less than 20 points, James has averaged 27.8 points.

And his record in those games during the regular season was 10-3.

“He’s going to be aggressive,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “LeBron James understands how to play the game and he understands what his team needs from him. He’s most likely going to be a lot more aggressive. It’s our job to make sure we defend him as best we can; take other guys out of the game.”

Like Tristan Thompson who had 18 points but only took four shots (he made 3) to get it, as most of his scoring came from the free throw line after getting fouled.

“He had 12 free throws or something like that? He’s playing well for them,” Bradley said. ‘We have to try and limit him to less rebounds. It’s going to be hard. If we’re able to do that and guard the 3, I like our chances.”

Boston’s Al Horford anticipates seeing not just James but the entire Cavs roster try to be more aggressive at the start.

And that means as good as they did in Game 3, they’ll have to be even better tonight.

“On the defensive end, we feel there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement,” Horford told CSN. “We just have to come out and play.”

In Game 3, Boston fell behind by as many as 21 points but for the most part stayed within arm’s reach of the Cavaliers which was a major improvement over Games 1 and 2 in Boston.

And as the Celtics continued to climb back into Game 3, James’ lack of impact plays remained a mystery.

And while there are some who are quick to put Sunday’s loss on James, not surprisingly his coach sees things differently.

“We're all to blame,” said Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue on Monday. “We lost; it happens. For a guy who played great for five straight months, he's got to have a bad game sooner or later. He's human. He didn't shoot the ball well. It wasn't his ordinary game. But Kevin (Love) and Kyrie (Irving) had it going early and they played well, so it kind of got him out of rhythm a little bit in that first half. That's no excuse. Like I said, they played well, but we've just got to play better, be more physical.”

After reviewing the video from Game 3, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was once again impressed with James for the most part making the right basketball play most of the game.

“When you've got guys that are all on fire the way they are, the right basketball play is to find them,” Stevens said. “He just made it over and over.

Stevens added, “The guy is a tremendous basketball player. He makes the right play over and over, and he thinks the game, he sees the game. He's a really good defender. He can read situations. So, I thought he was pretty darned good. But like I said (following Game 3), I'm not going to be critical of the best player in the world.”

Indeed, Stevens has far more important things to worry about, like bracing his players for the impending storm known to all as LeBron James.