Just 11 days ago, out in L.A., it was the Game of the Year. Thursday night at TD Garden, it's just another game ... at least to the Celtics.
The Lakers are in town for their only visit of the season Thursday in a nationally televised game on TNT (8 p.m. EST), and while they may be seeking some measure of revenge against the Celts after losing 109-96 at home on Jan. 30, the home team is just trying to get through another game in one piece. Boston has been ravaged by injuries in the 11 days since these two teams first meeting, having lost Shaquille O'Neal, Marquis Daniels and Semih Erden over that stretch. Things are so bad for the Green right now health-wise that Delonte West, still several days away from returning after suffering a broken wrist in November, had to step in to Wednesday's practice with Paul Pierce too sick to participate.
"I had to get on out there," West told the Boston Globe. "It was sooner than I expected, but I definitely surprised myself. I was able to go full contact. My conditioning was there. My timing was a little off."
While West is still a couple weeks away from game action, Pierce is expected to be well enough to suit up tonight. Still, that gives the C's just 10 healthy bodies. And they were already thin up front. But the Celtics' mentality regarding this game, just like any other in the regular season is to just remain level-headed, even-keeled and not let one game in February mean more than any other that's on the schedule, even if it's against the Lakers.
"I don't think it means more than that we play the Lakers and they're one of the team we have to beat to win a title," Celtics coach Doc Rivers told ESPN Boston. "I don't overdo regular season games. I just know it's Lakers-Celtics, and that's always a good thing."
The main story-line to watch for the Celtics other than their health is of course Ray Allen's continuing quest to break Reggie Miller's all-time record for three-pointers made. Allen is now just two away from the record and Miller will be in the house tonight as a commentator for TNT.
For the Lakers, who have won in Boston the past two regular seasons, it will be their first game since rumors began to spread that they're in pursuit of Denver star Carmelo Anthony. No doubt spurred by the fact that they are a combined 1-6 this season against the Celtics, Spurs, Heat, Mavericks and Bulls, all among their fellow top teams in the league. Despite having won two in a row, the defending champs have fallen to third overall in the Western Conference standings behind San Antonio and Dallas.
The Celts (38-13) look to get back on the winning track and sweep the season series from the Lakers (36-16) tonight at 8 p.m. EST, on TNT.