The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers will take the floor at Staples Center in LA on Thursday night for the most recent rendition of the NBA’s greatest rivalry.
And Celtics head coach Brad Stevens is just happy it will feel a little bit more normal than it did the last time the two teams played.
The Celtics, you may remember, weren’t back to having fans at TD Garden when LeBron James and the Lakers played in Boston on Jan. 30. It was even more noticeable as that game came down to the wire in what finished as a one-point loss for the C’s.
“Yeah, I mean it doesn’t matter who plays, right? I mean, obviously, everybody wants everybody who’s available to play, and that’s good too,” Stevens said on a pregame video conference. “But all these games are always highly intense, the way it should be. This is the first game the Lakers will have fans, and I’m glad. Because the game in Boston was eerie. We played in front of nobody.
“I think we played 75 games before we had fans back in Boston whether it was in the bubble or at home, but there was one that stood out above all others in how eerie it felt, and that was the Lakers’ game. This thing is meant for people to be here,” Stevens said.
The Lakers will be without both their superstars in Anthony Davis and James on Thursday night, while the Celtics will be without Robert Williams, but Stevens still acknowledged the challenge the hosts will present.
“I have a great deal of respect for who they have on their team that are playing, how they’ve been playing regardless of who’s available, how they’re coached, and certainly the tradition of the rivalry,” Stevens said. “Everybody understands what’s at play in that.”
The Celtics and Lakers are scheduled to start at 10 p.m. ET.