This isn’t the Celtics-Lakers matchup anyone was expecting coming into the season. There was talk of Los Angeles vying for the title of best team ever when the Lakers acquired Steve Nash and Dwight Howard in the offseason, but those plans obviously haven’t panned out. The Lakers are on their third coach (Bernie Bickerstaff was 4-1 in a temporary role). Howard is hurt, and now so is Pau Gasol. Los Angeles is 10th in the Western Conference.
On the other side, the Celtics lost All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo and All-Hustle rookie forward Jared Sullinger in the same week. Kevin Garnett’s name has been floated in a trade rumor. The whole system as we’ve known it since 2007 appears to be on the verge of breaking down. And yet the Celtics have won five straight games, the Lakers three straight and seven of eight. What in the name of Ricky Davis is going on here?
This isn’t the marquee matchup that TNT envisioned at the start of the season, but it’s no less interesting. The two most dominant franchises in the history of professional basketball are both at a crossroads. You aren’t a basketball fan if you’re not interested in what happens next.
Here are the details for tonight’s game:
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
Records: Celtics (25-23), Lakers (23-26)
Broadcast info:TNT, WEEI/93.7 FM (Sean Grande and Cedric Maxwell)
PG: Avery Bradley
SG: Courtney Lee
SF: Paul Pierce
PF: Brandon Bass
C: Kevin Garnett
PG: Steve Nash
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Metta World Peace
PF: Antawn Jamison
C: Earl Clark
*Dwight Howard is questionable tonight as he continues to deal with back and shoulder injuries. He has missed the last three games.
Kobe being … Rondo?: In winning 7 of 8 games Kobe Bryant has averaged almost a triple-double of 17.4 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 9.3 assists. He’s logged 37 minutes per game, which is remarkable considering he’s in his 16th NBA season. Bryant seems to revel in playing at TD Garden, where the Lakers have won four straight regular season meetings. It’s too bad old friend Ray Allen isn’t around tonight.
Post position: Tonight’s game may be the only one of the season where the Celtics have an advantage in size down low. The Lakers probably have to use power forward Earl Clark at center. Garnett usually struggles vs. the height of the Lakers (he’s 10 of 36 in his last two home games against Los Angeles), but he could see clearer shots at the basket tonight.
View from Los Angeles: My friends over at LakersNation.com write that the keys to a Lakers victory are Bryant continuing to be selfless and the Lakers containing the Celtics bench. That last point is a great one. Despite injuries, the Celtics still have a formidable bench and need to take advantage of the Lakers’ relative weakness there.