BOSTON – It doesn’t matter what the standings say.
The Boston Celtics facing the Los Angeles Lakers is always a must-see event.
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You’re talking about arguably the two most storied franchises in NBA history, set to do battle tonight at the TD Garden.
But for as much as we love to reminisce about the past, it’s the future of both franchises that has fans of both teams excited.
And that future is tied into the youngsters that will see plenty of action tonight.
For the Celtics, Brown and Jayson Tatum, taken by the Celtics with the No. 3 pick in the last two NBA drafts, are in the starting lineup. Rookies Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis both play significant minutes for Boston.
On the Lakers’ roster, you have Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, a pair of first-round picks (Ball went right before Tatum in last June’s NBA draft while Kuzma was the 27th overall pick).
In addition, the Lakers also have second-year player Brandon Ingram and fourth-year big man Julius Randle who turns 23 later this month.
Collectively, both teams have a strong core of young talent going forward which means this longstanding rivalry just might be reignited in the coming years.
Because lately, both teams have gone about rebuilding their respective squads with the Celtics being much further along than the Lakers.
After sending Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn in 2013, the Celtics were expected to be a franchise that would struggle for several years as they went about rebuilding itself.
Four years later, Boston was in the Eastern Conference finals as the top seed before losing to Cleveland in five games with their head coach Brad Stevens, winning more games than the previous season ever since he arrived as coach in 2013.
Meanwhile, the Lakers haven’t been to the playoffs since 2013 which is the longest playoff drought in the franchise’s history. And this season isn’t expected to be any different, either.
But as we’ve seen in the past, records mean very little when these two play.
Initially, the thought was that tonight’s matchup would be focused heavily on the Ball-Tatum dynamic, with both players going No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in last June’s NBA draft.
But the talk of the NBA tonight has to do with Boston’s nine-game winning streak. The Celtics (9-2) are the only team in NBA history to begin the season with back-to-back losses and recover to win its next nine games.
Kyrie Irving has been brilliant, especially down the stretch. Ditto for Al Horford whose play puts him near the front of the pack when talking about the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award.
However, the play of Boston’s young players is what really has allowed them to separate themselves from the rest of the league in this still-young season.
Tatum, whose minutes seemed uncertain after being drafted, has been one of the most consistent rookies in the NBA in terms of his overall contributions in addition to ranking among the league leaders in minutes played among first-year players. Celtics rookies Daniel Theis and Semi Ojeleye have both seen limited minutes but to their credit, have maximized their time with smart play at both ends of the floor.
Indeed, youth will be served in some fashion tonight by both teams.