LOS ANGELES – The lead-up to tonight’s game between Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers has nothing to do with tradition, or two long-time rivals on the rise or any of the predictable narratives that tend to arise on the cusp of this matchup.
This is about one game; a game that despite their lopsided records, actually means more to the Boston Celtics (34-13) than the Los Angeles Lakers (17-29).
Forget for moment how every Lakers loss brings their first-round pick in June closer to becoming Celtics property courtesy of Boston trading away the number one pick to Philadelphia in last June’s NBA draft, for the No. 3 pick in the draft and a future first-rounder that the Lakers owed the Sixers, which could potentially wind up in Boston’s war chest of draft picks if it falls between the No. 2-5 pick.
That’s important to Boston, obviously.
But of more urgent concern is the team’s play; specifically, their offense.
It was something to make note of earlier this season as the Celtics stockpiled wins, but nothing to worry too much about because, well, they kept winning.
But riding a season-high three game losing streak, it has become a top-shelf concern because 1) they’re not making progress offensively that lasts more than a couple games, and 2) they’re starting to lose in large part because the offense is simply not getting the job done.
Even nights when Kyrie Irving is having a special Kyrie Irving-like game, it’s far from a guarantee that’ll be enough to carry them to victory.
He lit up the Orlando Magic for 40 points on Sunday, and it still wasn’t enough as the Magic won 103-95. While it wasn’t one of the Celtics’ better games defensively, they did enough good things at that end of the floor to get the win.
“We haven’t played well enough consistently on both ends for a while now,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.
Boston’s offensive struggles have led them to bring in G-League standout Jarrell Eddie on a 10-day contract mainly because of his shooting skills.
And with the trade deadline less than a month away, the Celtics will look even closer at scoring/shooting options in the coming weeks.
Los Angeles Clippers guard Lou Williams is a player on Boston’s radar, but the Clippers’ recent run of success (they’ve won six of seven, 10 of their last 13) coupled with Williams playing at a near all-star level, makes it highly unlikely Doc Rivers and company will be open to parting with him.
A more logical and reasonable player to target is Memphis’ Tyreke Evans.
The Grizzlies are going nowhere and frankly, they would be better off cutting loose a player like Evans and get something in return unless they see him as a potential core player to their franchise going forward which seems unlikely.
Until then they swing a deal or let the deadline pass, the Celtics will get by with the players they have.
They're not bad players, but when you’re having a season like the Celtics are at a time when the Cleveland Cavaliers’ grip on the East hasn’t been this loose since LeBron James returned, the time to strike is now.
Danny Ainge knows this.
Brad Stevens knows this.
And the players one way or another, are going to know this because as we’ve seen with Ainge in the past, he will not hesitate to make a deal that shakes up the roster.
However, Boston’s current team has the potential to at least quiet down some of the increasingly loud calls for at a minimum, a roster tweak.
And it starts with getting a win tonight over the Los Angeles Lakers whose play has improved which is evident by them winning their last two and six of their last eight games.
Because like the Celtics, they too are trying to figure out the best course of direction going forward.
But they have the benefit of playing without real expectations relative to winning.
Not so much.
It’s always fun to reminisce about these long-time rivals and how they’re both trying to forge a future for themselves as the latest link to their historically awesome past.
But this game tonight isn’t about nostalgia.
It’s about two teams, both trying to win a game, a game that one of them – the Celtics – needs more.