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Celtics-Lakers Preview

AP - Sports

Thursday's trade deadline can't arrive fast enough for the Los Angeles Lakers' Pau Gasol and Boston's Rajon Rondo, as both have heard their names rumored in deals since before the season began.

For the time being, though, the two will suit up in Sunday's matinée between the Lakers and Celtics at Staples Center.

Gasol and Rondo were both linked to trades for All-Star point guard Chris Paul prior to the start of the season, and with the deadline just days away, those trade rumors have intensified.

"People already assumed I was basically gone,'' Gasol said after Friday's 105-102 victory over Minnesota. "There were some thank you tweets for your services and good luck and all that."

Both Gasol and Rondo have done a good job of handling the distractions.

Rondo, who made his third All-Star game appearance two weeks ago, had a career-best 35 points in a win over Detroit last month and finished with 18 points, 20 assists and 17 rebounds for the Celtics (21-18) in last Sunday's 115-111 overtime victory over New York.

Gasol, who averages 16.7 points and 10.5 rebounds, has been a big part of Los Angeles' strong defense, but realizes a possible trade and the swirling rumors are part of the game.

"Nothing surprises me anymore," he added. "I guess it's easy to start a rumor. Anybody can start a rumor. It's never pleasant because it puts you a little bit on edge, but it's going to be like that, I think, for the next (five) days.''

The Lakers (24-16) play three more times before the deadline, starting with a Celtics team they beat in overtime 88-87 in Boston on Feb. 9.

Andrew Bynum tipped in a miss from Kobe Bryant with 1:29 remaining in the extra session for the game's final basket. The Celtics missed their final four shots after Los Angeles took the lead, which included Gasol's block on a Ray Allen putback attempt at the buzzer.

Neither team had much success offensively - the Lakers shot 39.6 percent while the Celtics converted 39.2 percent. This shouldn't come as a surprise considering Los Angeles is among the league leaders in opponent field-goal percentage at 41.9, just ahead of Boston's 42.0.

"We've got the Celtics game coming up and we really have to just play some defense," Bynum said after Friday's victory. "It's going to be a defensive struggle like it was in Boston."

The Lakers could have an edge with a rematch at Staples Center, where they're 17-2 as the home team and allowing an average of 86.9 points.

The Celtics have averaged 81.3 points in dropping six of seven away from Boston and are opening a season-high eight-game road trip.

They take to the road in good spirits, however, routing Portland 104-86 on Friday for their sixth victory in seven games. Boston, which suffered a 103-71 loss at Philadelphia on Wednesday, led the Trail Blazers by as much as 43.

"It was just a good response, especially with the way we played down in Philadelphia," said Paul Pierce, who had 22 points on 7-of-13 shooting in 26 minutes. "A good way for us to head out west.''

The Lakers are also feeling good, returning home from a three-game road trip with a win over the Timberwolves after losing to Detroit and Washington.

"Anytime you lose two in a row, you want to bounce back and win,'' said Bryant, the league's leading scorer at 28.9 points.

Bryant scored 34 Friday, Bynum added 26 points and 10 rebounds and Gasol finished with 12 points and 11 boards.

In Boston last month, Bryant had 27 points, Gasol had 25 points and 14 rebounds and Bynum added 16 points and 17 boards.

Allen had 22 points in the loss, while Pierce scored 18 and Rondo had 14 points and seven assists.

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