While it’s a stretch to hype tonight’s game as a NBA Finals preview for two teams that didn’t get out of the conference semifinals last year and currently sit in the lower half of playoff qualifiers in their respective conferences, any Celtics-Lakers matchup is a marquee one. But as the familiar, "Beat L.A.!" chants echo through the Garden well before the opening tip, the Celtics will be more focused on continuing their own recent resurgence than sending a statement to the opponent. "I think we’re a little unhappy where we are at right now," Paul Pierce said Tuesday night after passing Larry Bird for second on the Celtics’ all-time scoring list in a 94-84 victory over the lowly Bobcats. "We don’t want to be the seventh seed. We feel like we should be in the top three or four teams in the Eastern Conference." The Celtics have been that over the past three weeks, but are still trying to make up ground from their 5-9 start.
While both squads still boast the core of their Finals teams, neither one is favored to return to the Finals. So the temptation is to consider this just another game on the schedule.
However, with all that said, I can't help but get excited when the Lakers come to town. This is the best rivalry in the sport and the only one that really matters to anyone in Boston and L.A. I don't care if both teams are in last place and fighting for ping pong balls, I would still want to crush the Lakers.
Note: Here is a little more motivation: