The fiercest rivalry in all of basketball renews this coming Sunday on ABC when the Los Angeles Lakers meet the Boston Celtics at Staples Center. Call it a rematch, a renewal, a regular season game. I’ll call it what it really is: a statement game.
While players and coaches alike will deny the game has any more meaning than any other regular season game, don’t be fooled. This game matters. A lot. To both teams.
But, believe it or not, it matters the most to the Lakers. You would think the opposite that Boston returns to the place of their demise last June in the NBA Finals, blowing a 13 point lead to watch confetti fall from the Staples rafters and Kobe Bryant hoist his fifth NBA trophy.
However, it is the Lakers who need a victory more. This game offers the chance for LA to send a real statement. Not only to Boston, but to the league.
So, here are the five reasons why this battle is a statement game for LA.
Everyone is talking bout how the Lakers have slipped back to the rest of the pack in the Western Conference and the entire league, for that matter.
People point to how the Lakers haven’t played, let alone beaten, any quality, elite teams this year.
Everyone is enamored with the San Antonio Spurs, the Heat, the Mavs. LA is cooked, so the storyline goes.
But beating Boston, the best team in the East, would go a long way to remind the NBA that LA is still on top and remains its most dangerous team.
This big ABC televised matchup of last year’s NBA Finals offers the Lakers the chance to at least partially erase the egg they laid on Christmas Day versus the Miami Heat.
LA was a no show for that game versus LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, as the Miami Thrice laid waste to the Lakers. The only sound was the hype bubble bursting.
The Lakers can show up Sunday, play well and walk away with a victory.
Andrew Bynum is nearly at full strength, with estimates from Phil Jackson now at 90 percent.
He was a shell of himself during last season’s playoff run, and by the time the Lakers met the Celtics in the Finals, Bynum was playing on one leg. His knee was shot.
Things are different for Sunday’s game. Bynum is healthy and getting back into form, and his presence on the court makes LA an entirely and deadly team.
All Laker fans have heard from the Celtics and center Kendrick Perkins and his head coach, Doc Rivers, is that Boston would have beaten LA last June if the Celtics had been at full strength.
Well, now the green machine returns to LA with a complete lineup. LA has the chance to stick it to Boston and shut up all the talk of injuries being the only reason Boston didn’t win the title.
Let this game be an initial measuring stick of both teams near full strength.
Boston is an elite team. The Celtics are in fact my pick to meet the Lakers in next June’s NBA Finals. I predicted it at the start of the year, and nothing has changed.
This game offers the opportunity for LA to get in the Celtics’ head, really mess them up. That’s because the last time Boston set foot in Staples, they choked, in many fans' opinions.
They want revenge.
There will be nothing better than for Kobe Bryant and his Lakers to strike a dagger to Boston’s heart and win this regular season matchup.
Don’t kid yourself. This will be remembered come playoffs and will go a long way to making Boston really doubt themselves, and their ability to win in LA should the teams meet for the title again.
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