The Los Angeles Lakers and their 16 NBA Championships come to Boston only once during the regular season every year. Due to more than 50 years of history and rivalry with their West Coast counterparts, Boston Celtic fans look especially forward to the annual arrival of the purple and gold in the state where basketball was birthed. And since the Celts hang 17 Championship banners in the rafters of the TD Garden, tonight’s contest and the one hosted by the Angelino hoopsters later this year could be previews of the June championship round for the big enchilada.
At 14-10, Boston’s veteran squad suffered through a season-opening three-game losing streak as well as a separate 5-game slide, signaling to some the end of an era. But now Coach Doc Rivers’ team is on a season-high 5-game winning streak and, impressively, has been victorious in 9 of their last 10 games. The Celtics last played and won on Tuesday at home against the Charlotte Bobcats. In that 48 minutes, 14th-year forward Paul Pierce scored 15 points to move into second place on Boston’s all-time scoring list, passing 3-time NBA MVP Larry Joe Bird. In Boston buckets, ‘The Truth’ now trails only HOF’er John Havlicek.
Coach Mike Brown’s squad last competed on Monday night in Philly where they were beaten 95-90 by the Atlantic division leading 76ers. At 14-11, the Lake Show sits two games behind their Staples Center cotenants, the Clippers, in the Pacific Division. The problem for Kobe Bryant and company has been their collective road performance. LA is 11-2 at home, but only 3-9 on the road. Tonight’s matchup is the fourth in a current six-game road trip for the Lakers (so far they’re 1-2).
In Monday’s loss, Kobe passed his former teammate Shaquille O’Neal for fifth place on the NBA’s career scoring list with 28,601. Amazingly, in his 16th season in the league, 5X champ Bryant leads the NBA in scoring at 29.3 ppg despite a torn ligament in his right wrist.
These two storied teams met in both the 2008 NBA Finals and again in the 2010 Finals. In ’08, the first year of Boston’s new Big 3 of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the Celtics prevailed. In ’10, former coach Phil Jackson and Kobe beat the Green&White in a tough, physical seven-game series that came down to the last minute. And while most league followers and commentators don’t believe that either of these teams will represent their respective conferences and meet in the 2012 title series, both sides in tonight’s contest have the veteran talent, leadership and coaching to be in the mix and make a run to the ring come the postseason
I’ll be back in the TNT booth with Marv Albert and my upcoming Rising Stars Challenge rival Steve Kerr for LAL @ BOS tonight at 8:00 PM ET.