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Preview: Lakers at Boston Celtics

Professional BasketballBasketballSportsLos Angeles LakersBoston CelticsRajon RondoNick Young

The Lakers (14-25) and Boston Celtics (14-26) were the best teams in the league not too long ago, facing each other in the 2008 and 2010 NBA Finals.

Now the former champions are going through the rebuilding process, both having won only two of their last 14 games.

The Celtics are expected to get All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo back when they host the Lakers on Friday night. Rondo has been out almost a year because of a knee injury.

The Lakers have a long list of players out of action: Kobe Bryant (knee), Steve Nash (back), Steve Blake (elbow), Jordan Farmar (hamstring) and Xavier Henry (knee). They will also be short Nick Young, who is suspended for throwing a punch Wednesday against the Phoenix Suns.

Manny Harris, signed to a 10-day contract by the Lakers on Thursday, could make his debut.

Key matchup

The Celtics recently traded point guard Jordan Crawford to the Golden State Warriors in anticipation of Rondo's return.

Rondo won't play big minutes but when he's healthy, he's among the top playmakers in the league.

The Celtics will also rely on guards Avery Bradley, Phil Pressey and Jerryd Bayless to help at the point, although Bradley is questionable for Friday because of a bruised hand.

The Lakers are getting steady production from point guard Kendall Marshall, who is averaging a double-double as a starter with 12.6 points and 12.1 assists a game, not that it's translating to wins for the team.

Jodie Meeks, who started the season as the backup shooting guard, has been playing the point in relief of Marshall.

X-factor

The Celtics don't have any elite scorers but Jeff Green averages a team-high 15.7 points a game. 

Boston also has a number of big men who put up steady numbers, including Jared Sullinger (13.2 points a game), Brandon Bass (10.9), Kris Humphries (7.1) and Kelly Olynyk (6.2).

Despite their record, the Celtics are a scrappy team.

With no Young on Friday, the Lakers need to rely on their big men for points inside. Pau Gasol is averaging 16 points a night. Jordan Hill (9.0) and Chris Kaman (8.3) are also capable of giving the Lakers a boost offensively.

Outlook

Friday night's game will not decide who makes the playoffs, but it could affect their position in the 2014 NBA draft.

The Celtics should have a big night with Rondo finally back from injury.

ALSO:

Pau Gasol a game-time decision Tuesday with a strained tendon in toe

With team slumping, Nick Young says, 'It's hard to be a Lakers fan'

Xavier Henry to slow down comeback after experiencing knee soreness

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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