The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers meet for their second and final time this season as the Lakers pay host to the Celtics this evening. It’s hard to believe that such lofty predictions of these two teams have turned into giant question marks in different ways. Both seasons can be looked at as disappointing, but the reasons why are vastly different.
The Celtics came into the 2012-13 season with a revamped rotation surrounding most of the original core. They held high expectations for a group that had never played together before and a coach that had never had as many options in the past as they now possessed. The start of the season was less than stellar to put it nicely and defined the team as a middle of the pack non-contender. The “depth” they had quickly disappeared and within about three weeks time the identity of the season radically changed. Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa all went down with season ending injuries and the Celtics were forced to go with a strangely successful and unlikely back-up plan. The Celtics won eight of nine heading into All-Star weekend playing top notch defense and looked as rejuvenated as ever.
The winning streak, however, masked a lot of issues regarding the Celtics team make-up. There now exists an overwhelming amount of holes and weaknesses that the team has to overcome or simply continue to fight through as they’re now forced to seek out different ways to win games on a nightly basis. They continue to be a day-to-day project that has to continuously search for solutions on the fly.
The Lakers disappointments are unfortunately greater than the Celtics. After an epic off-season, the unlikely marriage of talent and ego they brought upon themselves has continued to be the cause of their own demise. They sit today a surprising three and a half games out of the last playoff seed in the Western Conference and their issues run deep to say the least. The raging disappointment that has run through the Lakers season thus far is the result of putting a team together in a flawed manner. They have lost their identity in the process and there doesn’t seem to be any signs of turning it around in the meantime.
Tonight’s game is equally important to both teams, but with the Lakers current press for time to make a push towards the playoffs, they are in dire need of a big win over their long time rivals. In their last meeting the Lakers were embarrassed by a third quarter video-game-like sequence in which the Celtics exposed a lost and befuddled group. The Celtics outscored the Lakers 37-25 in that third quarter but the numbers don’t tell the whole story of just how bad of a loss it was. Mike D’Antoni then took it upon himself to let a banged up and emotionally frayed Dwight Howard remain in a blowout situation until he fouled out and returned to the bench with his head held low. It was yet another low point of a season full of discontent.
The Lakers need to come out with some sort of identity tonight that resembles a team fighting for some form of success. They are forced to get their revenge when the cards are already stacked against them. The Celtics, who are seemingly more comfortable in a shorter rotation, are on the second night of a back-to-back amidst a lengthy and difficult road trip. The Lakers have a chance for a big win at home to kick off the second half of their semi-disastrous season on a positive note.
Rivalry or no rivalry, character and toughness are built from games like these. Tonight, 33 championship banners and two strange seasons meet yet again as two of the games most storied franchises look to continue on with their own respective, yet unusually disappointing seasons.
Eric St. Cyr is a NBA contributor for Rantsports.com Follow Him on Twitter @ericJsaint