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.

How dominant has Craig Kimbrel been? The numbers are eye popping

How dominant has Craig Kimbrel been? The numbers are eye popping

Remember that infield hit by Jonathan Villar of the Brewers off Craig Kimbrel on May 11 in Milwaukee?

Don't worry, nobody does. That's the last hit off the Red Sox closer. That's right. One hit this month.

How dominant has Kimbrel been? Going into Saturday, right-handed hitters don't have a hit off him in their past 39 at-bats. Opponents are hitting .083 against him. Move the decimal point and 0.83 happens to be his season ERA, too, to go with 13 saves. 

Here's more via @SoxNotes:

Kimbrel, 28, has been one of baseball's best closers for years with the Atlanta Braves and San Diego Padres. His first year in Boston last season was solid with 31 saves and a 3.40 ERA, but his walks climbed (30 total and 5.1 per 9 innings, the second-highest totals of his career). He also struggled in non-save situations.

There's been no struggling lately. The last run Kimbrel gave up was a home run by Kendrys Morales of the Blue Jays in the ninth inning on April 20 in Toronto that tied the score at 1 in a game won by the Red Sox 4-1 in 10. Kimbrel got the win and his only blown save of the season.

His three-out save Friday night was his first outing without a strikeout since a one-out save April 23. That followed his four-strikeout inning Thursday night.