Friday is a rivalry game.
The Los Angeles Lakers are in Boston. Championship banners and history may surround this matchup, but the Boston Celtics are not en route to a championship any time soon, and the LA Lakers are, well, almost exactly as far away from the prize as the Celtics.
Both teams come into Friday’s game with only 14 wins on the season. The Celtics have played and lost one extra game than the Lakers, but these teams are pretty even. Although they may not be publicly screaming the obvious, neither team has any delusions about taking home the title this season.
In the laughably thin Eastern Conference, Boston is still only three games back of a playoff spot. In the West, the Lakers are a game and a half away from last place. Eighth place in the Western Conference is currently six games over .500. The Lakers would need to win 17 games in a row to get to that point.
After that hypothetical 17-game winning streak, the Lakers would only reach eighth place.
With that said, Friday is about one game and two heated rivals. Fans make rivalries as much as players, and Boston fans will be in full voice on Friday at TD Garden.
Rajon Rondo is expected to make his comeback from an elongated stretch on the sidelines, so the Celtics have someone connected to the last two times these teams met in the NBA Finals. On the Lakers’ side, Pau Gasol is that guy.
After a rocky start to the season, Gasol’s numbers look and sound better. Since the start of January, the Spaniard is averaging 19.7 points on 50 percent shooting while pulling down 11.6 rebounds per game. Offensively, those numbers say Gasol is rounding into form. Defensively, that could not be further from the truth.
Gasol is not the only culprit, but the Lakers are allowing an average of 121.7 points per game. Ranking dead last in the league in opponent’s points in the paint is probably the best indication of how incredibly poor Gasol and the Lakers have been on that side of the ball.
This season, Kobe Bryant has been seen on the Lakers’ floor about as often as the Lakers’ defense.
Despite Nick Young’s suspension, the Lakers have a shot against the Celtics. Boston has only one win of its last 10 games, but the Lakers are not any better. The Lakers are one of the other three teams in the NBA that have also lost nine of their last 10 games, and that was with Young playing. Without Swaggy P, the Lakers will struggle.
It may not be pretty basketball, but it is the Lakers and Celtics, and it is a rivalry game.