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LOS ANGELES LAKERS (23-26) at BOSTON CELTICS (25-23)
 
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Boston -1.5 & 194
 
The Lakers and the Celtics meet for the first time this season as this storied rivalry continues in Boston on Thursday night.
 
Despite numerous injuries, both L.A. and Boston are playing good basketball right now. The Lakers have won three straight games (all on the road) and are 6-1 SU in their past seven contests. The Celtics have won five games in a row, both SU and ATS. Both teams are very banged up though. Boston PG Rajon Rondo (knee) is out for the season while the Lakers are without PF Pau Gasol (foot) for at least a month, and C Dwight Howard is questionable with his ongoing shoulder problems. L.A. has won five of the past six meetings with the Celtics, but both teams are 3-3 ATS in this span. Los Angeles is 5-2 SU (4-2-1 ATS) in Boston since 2009.

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The Lakers may be thin in the frontcourt, but will still have the advantage in the backcourt. Without Rajon Rondo, the Celtics will have an extremely difficult time stopping both future Hall of Fame Lakers guards Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. It’s also worth mentioning that the Lakers are third in the league in rebounding (45.1 RPG) while the Celtics are 29th (39.6 RPG). Even if Howard can't suit up, the Lakers will still have PFs Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison down low who are two more-than-capable rebounders.
 
The Lakers have now won three straight games on their current road trip, but they are still experiencing the same ups and downs they did when they were losing frequently. They haven’t had things run smoothly for them pretty much all season, and now PF Pau Gasol has a tear in his foot that will sideline him for 4-6 weeks. C Dwight Howard’s shoulder isn’t expected to keep him out long, but he isn’t going to be playing anywhere near 100 percent. Luckily for Los Angeles, it still has Kobe Bryant, who despite being bothered by a sore elbow, is averaging 17.4 PPG, 7.4 APG, 7.2 RPG and 1.6 SPG over the past five games. He has done whatever it takes to win games for the Lakers whether it’s scoring, passing or hitting the glass. And he's dominated the Celtics since 2006 with 31.0 PPG (46% FG, 43% threes), 5.5 RPG and 4.9 APG in 13 meetings.

PF Earl Clark has also really emerged in his third NBA season, and over the past five games, Clark has four double-doubles and is averaging 13.8 PPG and 10.4 RPG. He is shooting 54% from the field and 44% from three-point range during that span. Clark has been a consistent presence down low for Los Angeles while its bigs have been injured. SF Metta World Peace was suspended for Tuesday's game, but he will return on Thursday. He's made just 27% FG in the past four games, but has grabbed 8.0 RPG in his past two contests.
 
Boston has now won five straight games, making people question whether or not they even need star PG Rajon Rondo. The Celtics are still a team full of fighters and they aren’t going to give away any games. SF Paul Pierce is the one who is going to need to play more point forward for Boston and he has done a good job of that in the past five games. In this span, Pierce is averaging 6.2 APG, which is helping fill in for the lack of a point guard on this team. Although he was just 2-for-11 shooting in Wednesday's win in Toronto, he has 11 rebounds and six assists in the victory. PF Kevin Garnett also had a huge game against the Raptors with 27 points (11-of-18 FG) and 10 rebounds, giving him 18.0 PPG and 9.0 RPG during the win streak. One player who has started to come on strong since Rondo went down is SG Leandro Barbosa. Over the past three games, Barbosa is averaging 13.3 PPG and 3.0 APG. Those numbers may not be eye-popping, but as long as a few people are pitching in, they can remain competitive against most NBA teams.

  
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