Celtics prepare for a Lake Show invasion

Kobe Bryant, center, and the rival Lakers visit TD Garden tonight (8 p.m., TNT) for the only time this season.

Three things to look for when the rival Lakers visit TD Garden for the lone time this season:

Employee No. 9
It’s already been a wild season for Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, and it doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon. He was halfway out the door for Chris Paul before Paul was sent to the Clippers. Then, he fell down hard on his wrist, forcing him to miss games while still not being back to his normal self. Now, there are more rumors surfacing of a deal that would send him to the Lakers for Pau Gasol. I don’t see it happening, but don’t think that Rondo doesn’t use all this trade talk as fuel to his fire. When he’s on his game, he’s one of the best point guards in the NBA, and he’s known to show up for big games (and not so much for small games). This is obviously a big one, and Rondo should make a huge difference, injury or not.

‘MVP! MVP!’
Those were the chants heard throughout TD Garden the season prior to Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Banner 17. They were intended for Kobe Bryant. Safe to say that the moment was one of the low points in Boston Celtics fandom (and maybe was enough to set Celtics ownership over the top). Bryant went off for 43 points that night — including 7-for-9 from 3-point territory. The Lakers won. The C’s beat them back in the Garden the next season, but since, the Lakers have taken the last three in Boston — two of which came by one point. Bryant hasn’t scored 30 points in any of those games, but his teammates have stepped up to help. Expect this one to be close as the C’s are playing great basketball right now. They should escape with the win at home.

Inside-outside game
Yes, Kevin Garnett can shoot threes. We’ve seen it happen a few times this season, but luckily Garnett isn’t a guy who will hit one and chuck it up six more times in the same game. The Celtics need him down on the block. The truth is the C’s need to man up in the paint tonight. The Lakers are the best rebounding team in the game and looking at their frontcourt of Gasol and Andrew Bynum, it’s easy to see why. They’re physical in the paint, and the biggest knock on the Celtics this season is the fact that their inside game is, statistically, one of the worst in the NBA. When they do create a presence down low, good things happen. They’ll need it from Garnett, Chris Wilcox, and Jermaine O’Neal. The guards will also need to get down and dirty to win. Establishing a presence down low will open things up for the shooters on the C’s, and create space on the offensive end.

Streaking C’s

   
After a painfully slow start to their 2011-12 season the Celtics have pieced things together to get on a five-game win streak. The streak is the best current streak in the Eastern Conference.

At 14-10 on the year, the C’s  now seem to be on the right track. Boston’s 87-56 win at home against Orlando on Jan. 23 and a 91-83 road win against the Magic three days later sparked the recent run.


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