The Celtics got a cupcake of an opponent in their first West Coast road game after the All-Star break, taking care of the Kings with solid free-throw shooting and a strong defensive effort in crunch time. The next test will be tougher, as the C's are bound for a rematch with the defending champion Lakers at the Staples Center. After losing to L.A. three weeks ago on a dagger of a final jump shot from Kobe Bryant, the C's are dying for revenge. And with Kobe looking unlikely to take the floor for this one, their chances look pretty good.
Where and Where
Thursday, Feb. 18, 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)
TD Staples Center, Los Angeles, Calif.
Celtics (33-18, first place in Atlantic Division, fourth place in Eastern Conference)
Lakers (42-13, first place in Pacific Division, first place in Western Conference)
Head to Head
Two years ago, it was a six-game NBA Finals victory over Kobe's Lakers that lifted Kevin Garnett and the Celtics to the "top of the world." Since then, they might as well be buried at the center of the earth. The Celtics are winless in three games against L.A. since those Finals; they were swept 2-0 last season, and they lost again on Jan. 31 of this year when Kobe hit the go-ahead jumper with 7.3 seconds left to seal the deal. Andrew Bynum added insult to injury in that game with a double-double, 19 points and 11 rebounds.
It's genuinely scary that these Lakers can lose Kobe Bryant to injury and still manage to rattle off four straight wins. And these aren't pushovers, either — the Lakers have taken care of business against West contenders Portland, San Antonio and Utah as well as beating Golden State by 10 on Tuesday night. You can only imagine how good this team would be if healthy. The Celtics, on the other hand, finally are healthy, but that's no guarantee of getting a win against the defending champions, especially given how much the C's have struggled on West Coast road trips this season.
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Paul Pierce
Power forward: Kevin Garnett
Center: Kendrick Perkins
Point guard: Derek Fisher
Shooting guard: Shannon Brown
Small forward: Ron Artest
Power forward: Pau Gasol
Center: Andrew Bynum
The Celtics' win Tuesday night over Sacramento improved their record to 3-5 against the Pacific Division this season.
They have allowed 101.6 points per 100 possessions, giving them the best defensive efficiency in the NBA.
Kendrick Perkins leads the Celtics in defensive (309), offensive (100) and total (409) rebounds.
Kevin Garnett has 32 boards in his last four games.
Paul Pierce is shooting 86.3 percent from the free-throw line this season, a career-best.
Ray Allen's 2.7 assists per game are his lowest average since he dished out 2.6 per game in his 1996-97 rookie season.
Rajon Rondo scored only four points on Tuesday night.The anemic output was actually not a season-low — he scored just once against the Bulls on Oct. 30, finishing the night with two points.
The Lakers are 26-4 this season at home.
With 102.0 points allowed per 100 possessions, the Lakers are second only to Boston.
Derek Fisher is the only Laker to start all 55 games this season.
In four games without Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol averaged 17.5 points and 13.8 rebounds.
Andrew Bynum leads the Lakers with 75 blocks.
Ron Artest is averaging 11.7 points per game, a career-low.
Lamar Odom has 14.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game against the Celtics in his career.
Black and Blue
After missing his last game before the All-Star break with back spasms, Ray Allen returned Tuesday night against Sacramento. He played a team-high 33 minutes and scored 15 points.
Kobe Bryant has a sprained left ankle and does not expect to play.
Andrew Bynum returned from a bruised right hip Tuesday night against Golden State.
Luke Walton has a pinched nerve in his back. He is out indefinitely.
This Date in Celtics History
In 1998, the Celtics make the fatal mistake of trading No. 3 overall draft pick Chauncey Billups to the Raptors in a seven-player trade. Billups goes on to become a five-time NBA All-Star and an NBA Finals MVP with the Pistons after leaving Boston.
"There's a strong possibility I will be traded to New York [Thursday]. At the end of the day, this is a business, and the Celtics feel they will be a better team with the guys they are trying to get."
—Celtics guard Eddie House, who spoke to the media at the Lakers' practice facility at UCLA on Wednesday afternoon, on the rumors that he'll be traded for Nate Robinson.
The C's work out the details on Nate Robinson.
Ray Allen remains cool, calm and collected.
Shelden Williams is fine with being fined.
Kobe Bryant may sit this one out.
Without Kobe, the Lakers play "Gasol Ball."
Deadline dealing for L.A.? Don't count on it.
The Cavaliers landed Antawn Jamison.
Amare Stoudemire is "50-50" to change teams Thursday.
Dirk Nowitzki led the new-look Mavericks to a win.
At this point, the Celtics have probably forgotten how it feels to beat the Lakers. Two years is a long time. But with Kobe probably still on the shelf, this might be a good time for the C's to jog their memory. The Celtics are finally healthy, and they've got some forward momentum after kicking off their West Coast road trip with a win. Now it's time to see if they can block out all their off-the-court distractions and channel their positive energy into a big statement win on the road.