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February 10, 2012

Big men a big problem for Celtics

BOSTON — As the game wore on, it began to feel like watching the same episode of SportsCenter again and again.

Each time the ball hit the rim, you simply knew either Pau Gasol or Andrew Bynum was coming away with the rebound, and more than likely was about to turn it into points.

It was the issue that cost the Celtics the NBA title two years ago. It was the biggest reason they fell short to the Miami Heat in the playoffs last season, and it became clear once again last night it would again be a tremendous problem down the stretch this season.

The Celtics, who lost 88-87 in OT, simply do not have the bodies to contend in the frontcourt.

Boston's struggling big men were once again toasted by the Lakers' bigs last night. The C's were out-rebounded 55-45, a stat that does not begin to illustrate the dominance.

Whether it was Gasol outworking the Celtics' front court for a putback, such as his tap-in with 9.8 to go in regulation, or Bynum outjumping three Celtics for a rebound and adding a hoop, it was trouble all night for the C's.

"People don't realize how big these two are," said Lakers forward Troy Murphy. "They touch the rim without jumping. With Bynum's size and Pau's skill it's tough for any team to match up."

That was certainly the case with the Celtics. Facing the Lakers with a frontcourt of Kevin Garnett, who looked older than ever last night, Jermaine O'Neal, who is well past his prime, and the likes of journeyman Chris Wilcox, Boston was totally outmatched.

Garnett looked old and soft around the rim, happy to settle for jump shots, O'Neal was once again a non-factor with just six rebounds in 32:56 and Wilcox grabbed just three rebounds in 12:49, and was stuffed by Murphy on a dunk attempt.

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