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Preview: Lakers vs. Boston Celtics

What to expect when the Lakers play host to the Celtics on Sunday evening

Losers of seven consecutive games, the Lakers (13-44) host the Boston Celtics (20-32) on Sunday night at Staples Center.

Point guard Isaiah Thomas, fresh off a deadline trade from the Phoenix Suns, is expected to make his Celtics' debut against the Lakers. Boston also acquired Jonas Jerebko and Gigi Datome from the Detroit Pistons.

Despite their losing record, the Celtics still have playoff aspirations, just a game and a half behind the eighth-place Brooklyn Nets (22-31).

The Lakers will play without Kobe Bryant (shoulder), Julius Randle (knee) and Steve Nash (back), who are all done for the season.

Jared Sullinger (foot) is also out for the year while second-year forward/center Kelly Olynyk is sidelined with an ankle injury.

Key matchup

Thomas is likely to come off the bench for the Celtics. He dominated the Lakers in a similar role for the Suns.

In four appearances against the Lakers, Thomas is averaging 21 points and 5 assists a game while shooting a blistering 65.2% from the field and 66.7% from three-point range.

The Lakers will start Jordan Clarkson at point guard, which might put Jeremy Lin or Ronnie Price as the matchup against Thomas when reserves enter the game.

Clarkson might have his hands full against Marcus Smart, who is a very strong defender as a rookie at the point.

X-factor

The Celtics are short two of their three leading scorers without Sullinger's 14.4 and Olynyk's 11.1 points a game.

That leaves guard Avery Bradley as the team's top offensive threat at 13.7 points a game, although Thomas joins Boston at 15.2 a night.

Expect the Celtics to rely more heavily on players like center Tyler Zeller and forwards Brandon Bass and Evan Turner.

The Lakers are still looking for consistency.  To win, they'll need strong offensive performances from Nick Young, Wayne Ellington, Jordan Hill, Carlos Boozer and Lin.

Outlook

The Celtics are not a great team but they aren't just playing for draft position. Expect the Lakers to drop their eighth in a row.

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

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