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Lakers vs. Celtics: Players Under Most Pressure to Perform

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 17:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers puts a shot up over Paul Pierce #34 and Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics in Game Seven of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 17, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Jeffrey SakakibaraContributor IIFebruary 7, 2013

Regardless of how both teams stand in their respective conferences, any game between the Lakers and the Celtics is special.

With the two most decorated teams in the NBA, the rivalry between both teams is more about the intangibles than the players themselves. 

With the recent injuries of Rajon Rondo and Pau Gasol, both teams are missing crucial pieces to their franchises, and it will be up to the remaining players to fill the gaps. 

 

Kevin Garnett

With the absence of Gasol combined with the ongoing injury issues of Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett will need to fight for position near the paint. Garnett must take advantage of the lack of size in the Lakers and grab offensive rebounds.

Both teams like to go on small scoring runs during the game, and when the Lakers are draining shots, Garnett will need to be the one grabbing the rebounds and changing the tempo. 

Second-chance points have always been a problem for the Celtics against any team, but with an obvious height advantage, Garnett will need to perform at his best. 

Because Rondo is gone, Garnett must also be the vocal leader on the court. 

 

Steve Nash

With Rondo out of the lineup, Steve Nash needs to step up as the point guard and take advantage of Rondo's absence. If Nash can break up the defense and make the Celtics blow defensive assignments, then the Lakers have this game. 

The defense that the Celtics pride themselves in occasionally breaks down, especially around the paint.

If Nash can drive into the paint and cause a double-team, then he can break up the defense and rack up the assists in bunches. 

Nash will be expected to take advantage of the current state of both teams, and a win here would be crucial for the Lakers closing in on the eighth spot. 

 

Dwight Howard

After Kobe Bryant reportedly told ESPN that "We don't have time for (Howard's shoulder) to heal," Dwight Howard will most likely be in the starting lineup Thursday night. 

Urgency has been a huge topic surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers, and Dwight Howard seems to be in the center of it. Howard will unfortunately have to push through a shoulder injury and become the defensive force that he naturally is. 

Howard has been suffering because of his physical limitations, but with Kobe publicly calling Howard to action, all eyes will be on Dwight Howard.

With the shoulder injury ongoing, Howard will have trouble constantly fighting for rebounds, so he must concentrate on his offense in the post. If Howard can't contribute in rebounds and putbacks, he must shine on the offensive side to avoid further criticism.  

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