(Sports Network) - The most storied rivalry in the NBA takes center stage
Thursday night when the Los Angeles Lakers visit the Boston Celtics, although
both teams will be down several key figures.
The Lakers are expected to be without the services of All-Star center Dwight
Howard once again as the big man deals with an ailing shoulder. Howard has sat
the last three for the Lakers, all of which have been victories.
But the bigger news came after Tuesday's gritty road victory in Brooklyn over
Pau Gasol, who was playing very well in Howard's absence, suffered a tear of
the plantar fascia on his right foot. He is expected to miss at least four-six
Officially, Howard is listed as questionable, but Gasol will certainly be out
an extended period of time. If both are unavailable Thursday, L.A. will go
with some combination of Earl Clark, Robert Sacre and Antawn Jamison.
"We'll see what happens," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni told the "Mason & Ireland
Show" on radio Wednesday. "Hopefully, Dwight will be back fairly soon, but you
approach it like any other game. Guys got to step up."
Metta World Peace will return from a one-game suspension on Thursday. He
missed the Nets game after an altercation with Brandon Knight of the Detroit
The Lakers, who have won six of their last seven, closed the Nets game on a
10-0 run. Kobe Bryant was his usual dominant self with 21 points, eight
rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block.
Steve Nash played perhaps his best game as a Laker with 17 points and eight
assists. Gasol accounted for 15 points and Clark had a double-double with 14
points and 12 boards.
Thursday night's contest will be the fifth on a seven-game Grammy road trip.
The Celtics are also done two key pieces in the form of All-Star guard Rajon
Rondo and rookie starter Jared Sullinger. Rondo is out after a torn ACL and
Sullinger's first campaign ended with back surgery.
Despite these huge blows, the Celtics are undefeated since Rondo's injury.
They've won five in a row, with the first four all home, then a road victory
in Toronto on Wednesday night.
Boston overcame a 10-point deficit in the final quarter, thanks in part to
both Kevin Garnett and Leandro Barbosa. Garnett scored 11 in the final frame
and Barbosa added 12 to give the Celtics the 99-95 victory.
"We're fighters, we're a team that's going to compete for 48 minutes," said
Garnett. "It's not always pretty and we're not perfect, we're human beings and
we play hard."
Garnett finished with a season-high 27 points and 10 rebounds. Barbosa added
14 and four other Boston players scored in double figures. Paul Pierce
registered a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards.
Doc Rivers, who earned his 400th victory as the Celtics coach, and his group
have done it with defense during this five-game winning streak. They've held
opponents to an average of 92.4 ppg and that included a double-overtime win
over one of the league's top scoring teams, the defending champion Miami Heat.
The Lakers have won four in a row in Boston and nine of the last 13 overall in
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