As the Los Angeles Lakers battle the Boston Celtics tonight at TD Garden, the two teams do their best to downplay the significance of a regular season game. However, when arch-rivals get together, the game takes on an added performance. Tom Bellinger of Celtics Blog recognizes the importance of the rivalry:
In two of the last three seasons, the Celtics and Lakers have faced off in the NBA Finals, and in both of those series, it went beyond a game 5. The Celtics won the first one, and the Lakers followed that up with arguably their best season since the Shaq years. Last season, the Lakers won, in 7 games, and the Celtics are following that up with one of their most dominating and consistent regular season performances since the first season KG arrived in Boston. Don't tell me that these teams don't live to kill each other.
For the Lakers, who are 0-5 against the top four teams in the NBA, they realize tonight means a lot as well. From Saurav A. Das of Silver Screen and Roll:
If the Lakers win this game, it may well signal a true turning point in their season. They've shown some good signs since their loss to the C's: Pau once again playing aggressively and effectively, the defense functioning well, and some signs of the endgame execution (ignoring the last 22 seconds of the Spurs game) that's needed in a championship contender. If they win tonight, it could mean they've come full circle from that embarrassing defeat.
If not... well, there's still plenty of time for them to round into form. The All Star Break hasn't even passed yet. But waiting longer would have negative implications. Stealing HCA from San Antonio is pretty much impossible by now, but the Lakers can still realistically regain home court for potential matchups against Boston, Dallas and Miami. Perhaps most important for our peace of mind, beating Boston tonight, even though they're without Shaq, would finally qualify as a true signature win, of the sort the Lakers so nearly had against San Antonio a week ago.
The Lakers are 9-9 against the Celtics, including in the NBA Finals, since Pau Gasol joined the team.
For more information on tonight's game, be sure to read Silver Screen and Roll.