LOS ANGELES LAKERS (23-26)
at BOSTON CELTICS (25-23)
Tip-off: Thursday, 8:05 p.m. ET
Line: Boston -1.5, Total: 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.
Which team will prevail in this classic rivalry game on Thursday? For the answer, connect to NBA Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. For NBA Best Bets, the experts are a collective 12-3 ATS (80%) in the past two days and are 28-15 ATS (65%) in the month of February, with StatFox Dave going 9-4 ATS (69%) over this stretch and StatFox Scott at 9-3 ATS (75%) in his February Best Bets, improving to 55.1% ATS (76-62-1) for the season. For NBA Totals, the experts are an outstanding 37-15 (71%) in the past 12 days with StatFox Gary at 14-4 (78%), StatFox Brian going 12-4 (75%) and StatFox Scott at 11-7 (61%) since Jan. 25. For the season, Scott is a whopping 58.4% (73-52) in Totals, while Gary is a profitable 53.3% (65-57-4).
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 havenít 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 Howardís shoulder isnít expected to keep him out long, but he isnít 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 itís scoring, passing or hitting the glass. 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 arenít 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.