Watching the Celtics has been a bit of a chore thus far this season. But on Friday night, there is no excuse for not tuning in.
The Celtics will welcome the Los Angeles Lakers to Boston on Friday night for the first meeting between the two historic rivals this season. Celtics-Lakers games just hit differently, even if both teams are not playing at a particularly high level at the moment.
It doesn’t matter that the Celtics are 7-8 on the season, and that the Lakers are just smidge better at 8-8. When these two rivals meet, it’s always a noteworthy event.
“That game is special. Obviously, everyone knows the history between the two franchises, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of that going on five years now,” Celtics forward Jayson Tatum said Wednesday night. “I obviously understand who they have on their team. And especially in somebody like LeBron, that is one of the best to play this game. Obviously as a kid those are the matchups that you dreamed about and you don’t take for granted when you get the opportunity. Because as a competitor, you love games and you love moments like that.”
Tatum has played in eight games against the Lakers in his career, averaging 18.5 points in those contests. His finest performance against L.A. came during the 2019-20 season, when he dropped 41 points in a 114-112 Boston loss in Los Angeles. It was that game that James famously said that Tatum was going to be “a problem” for a long time in the league.
The Celtics and the Lakers have been evenly matched since Tatum came into the mix. They’ve split the eight meetings, and four of them were decided by two points or fewer. That includes a Saturday Night showdown in Boston last season, a thrilling affair that the Lakers won by one point.
The newest chapter of the rivalry will be written Friday night, with both teams desperate for a win. Boston is back under .500 following an 11-point loss to the Hawks on Wednesday night. Though the Celtics didn’t have big man Robert Williams or Jaylen Brown for that contest, abysmal defense and even worse three-point shooting plagued the team throughout, which have been their biggest issues to start the year. Boston is also just 2-3 at home this season.
The Lakers, meanwhile, are hoping to get James back in action after he’s missed 10 of the team’s last 16 games with an abdominal strain. The Lakers are 4-6 in their last 10 games, and fell to the Milwaukee Bucks, 109-102, on Wednesday. It dropped them to 1-3 on the road for the season.
Both the Celtics and the Lakers have underperformed to start the season. Perhaps a meeting against each other is just what they both need to jump start their seasons.