Lakers-Celtics: The mere pairing of those two words next to each other cranks up visions of hoop dreams and sounds of squeaky hardwood, and those two storied franchises are ready to renew their rivalry for the second and final time this regular season.
After trouncing the Lakers 116-95 in Boston on Feb. 7, the Celtics (28-25) will travel to Los Angeles to keep up the momentum they gained prior to the All-Star break with a tilt against the Lakers on Feb. 14.
The Celtics got back into action on Tuesday night and fell in Denver to the Nuggets, 97-90. That was the first of a five-game road trip. The last thing Boston needs is to start that trip at 0-2.
Meanwhile, the Lakers will be trying to turn their season around. Los Angeles sits at 25-29 and in 10th place in the Western Conference.
This game will be the Lakers first action following the All-Star break.
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles
When: Wednesday, Feb. 20 at 10:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: NBA League Pass (Subscription required)
Celtics Injuries (via ESPN)
Lakers Injuries (via ESPN)
Out: F Pau Gasol (Foot)
Day-to-Day: F Earl Clark (Foot)
Key Storyline: Which Storied Franchise Will Make a Statement to Start Second Half of Their Season?
A funny thing happened in Boston once star point guard Rajon Rondo was lost for the season with a torn ACL, the Celtics started winning. In fact, they won seven in a row and eight of their last nine before the break after Rondo suffered his injury.
Now it is time to see if the Celtics merely received a temporary boost by the absence of Rondo, or if the improved team play is here to stay.
Meanwhile, the Lakers don't have much pointing towards a turnaround. This team has been consistently inconsistent all season. Still, everyone knows this team has talent, and the possibility of Los Angeles reversing its fortunes still exists, but it better not wait much longer.
If the Lakers are going to turn things around, Dwight Howard will have to be the main cog. The center has battled injuries this season and has never looked comfortable in a Lakers uniform.
As a result, his numbers are well below the lofty standards he has established for himself.
When the Lakers and Celtics last faced each other, Howard had just nine points and nine boards. Meanwhile, the elder Garnett went for 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals while thoroughly outplaying Howard.
The Lakers will fall to Boston if this happens again.
Prediction: Lakers 107, Celtics 101
I think the Celtics are going to have a better second half to the season than the Lakers, but I see Los Angeles getting the better of them on this night for two big reasons.
The first is the fact the Celtics will be trying to rebound after playing a tough game in the high altitude of Denver the night before.
The second factor is, I expect the Lakers and their fans to pack this game with extra emotion as it is the team's first time on the court after the tragic passing of longtime owner, Jerry Buss.