Where: TD Garden, Boston
BOSTON – (Special Preview by The Sports Xchange) – Isaiah Thomas, who is wedging his name into the MVP race, will attempt to lead the Boston Celtics to their sixth consecutive victory when they host the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday. The All-Star guard ranks second in the NBA in scoring at 29.7 points per game and was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month after averaging 32.9 in January.
Thomas was given up on by both Sacramento and Phoenix before emerging as a star in Boston, and his teammates are amazed at the skills of a player who will be gunning for his third consecutive 40-point performance on Friday. “Sometimes we catch ourselves looking at him, watching it, and kinda looking like a fan because he’s so small and look at what he’s doing,” Celtics point guard Marcus Smart told reporters. “You’re looking like, ‘Wow. I can’t believe he did that.’ At the end of the game, it’s like, ‘He had how much?’ Isaiah works for that and he’s a great player.” The Celtics and Lakers are tied for the most regular-season victories in NBA history with 3,252 apiece, but Los Angeles rates as a huge underdog in this tilt due to 11 consecutive road losses. The Lakers dropped a 116-108 decision to host Washington on Thursday for their ninth defeat in their last 11 overall games.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet (Los Angeles), CSN New England (Boston)
ABOUT THE LAKERS (17-35): Los Angeles served notice it is tired of its dismal record over the last 3 1/2 seasons when it hired franchise legend Magic Johnson as an advisor and stated he would be involved in “all areas of basketball and business.” The hiring, announced by co-owner Jeanie Buss, could mean the end for her brother Jim, the executive vice president of basketball operations who stated earlier this season he would resign if the team wasn’t headed in the right direction. The Lakers recently suffered the worst loss in franchise history – 122-73 to Dallas – and possess the third-worst record in the NBA.
ABOUT THE CELTICS (31-18): Thomas is averaging 36.2 points during the club’s five-game winning streak, scoring 37 or more in four of the contests. He has a solid chance of surpassing the team record set by Larry Bird (29.9 points) during the 1987-88 campaign and becoming the first player in franchise history to average 30 points in a season. Small forward Jae Crowder also is performing well with 11 straight double-digit performances, including five efforts of 20 or more points.
1. The Celtics won last season’s final meeting after losing five of the previous six games in the all-time series.
2. Los Angeles F Julius Randle (pneumonia) played six minutes against the Wizards after missing the previous two contests and should be available to face Boston.
3. Boston backup C/F Kelly Olynyk (shoulder) could miss his second straight game.