The Los Angeles Lakers suffered a tough loss in Washington on Thursday and will have a quick turnaround to try to bounce back from the defeat. On Friday, they will face their long-time rivals, the Boston Celtics, on ESPN at 5 PM PST.
The Celtics are currently on a huge roll. They have won seven of their last 10 games, currently sitting at 31-18 and second in the Eastern Conference. The key to their success has been none other than Isaiah Thomas.
The diminutive point guard has been taking the NBA by storm. He has become known as possibly the best clutch-time scorer in the NBA but he has been consistently pouring it in, averaging 29.7 points per game on a stellar 62.6 true shooting percentage. He’s been even more amazing in recent weeks. Thomas has scored at least 35 points in seven of the last nine games.
It’s pretty clear that the Lakers will need to slow down Thomas in order to have a chance of winning this game. He is the Celtics’ best and arguably only shot creator. It’s obviously easier said than done, but the Lakers need to find a way to at least slow him down.
LA’s best option may be to blitz pick and rolls involving Thomas. This is not feasible with Timofey Mozgov or Ivica Zubac, two slower-footed bigs. It could, however, work with the Lakers’ more athletic bigs: Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., and Tarik Black. Doing so leaves the risk of the Celtics’ stretch bigs shooting open shots from the outside, but allowing Horford and Olynyk to shoot seems like a better choice than giving Thomas room to operate.
Offensively, the Lakers should be able to get things done. They have their full complement of players for the first time in a long time and are going against the 20th ranked defense in the NBA. D’Angelo Russell should be able to utilize his size in the post against Thomas and attempt to wear out or foul out Boston’s star player. Russell has been a revamped passer since coming back from his most recent injury and may have a field day against the Celtics’ porous defense.
The Celtics have been playing exceptionally well and are a great team. But this is a decent matchup for the Lakers if they play their cards well. They could contend against this team and pull out the upset in Boston. Listen to James Worthy and: