For the last five seasons, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers have been measured by their losses.
They’ve split two NBA Finals matchups and have been threats in the postseason each year.
This year is different.
No longer is it a surprise when the Celtics or Lakers lose, but when they actually win a game. Okay, it was also a surprise when the Lakers fired head coach Mike Brown five games into the season.
Regardless, wins have been few and far between for these two longtime rivals from each coast. The C’s went into Wednesday’s game in Toronto with a 24-23 record, good for eighth in the Eastern Conference.
The Lakers aren’t any better. At 23-26, they’re not even a playoff team right now – playing catch up to teams like the Blazers, Rockets, and Jazz.
And the good news for both teams – that the Celtics were on a four-game winning streak heading into Wednesday, and the Lakers have won six of seven – can’t even come without major injury news.
You already know about Boston’s Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger. But the Lakers, too, are dealing with injuries now. Their two redwoods, Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol are banged up. Howard has missed the team’s last three games with right shoulder soreness, and Gasol heard a “pop” in his foot on his fascia in Tuesday’s game against the Nets and it was revealed by CBSSports.com yesterday that he will miss up to six weeks of action.
The injuries to both teams have forced the “old reliable” future Hall of Famers of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Kobe Bryant to take on even larger roles with their respective teams.
In the Lakers’ last three games (all wins), Bryant has averaged 18.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 5.7 assists. While his scoring is down, his rebounds and assists are up, because that’s what his team needs.
The same can be said for Pierce, who has taken on a bigger point-forward role after loss of Rondo. Pierce has averaged 17.3 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 6.3 assists in the C’s last four games, with the latter two stat categories well above his career averages.
So tonight’s game (8 p.m., TNT) isn’t a battle between the NBA’s best. It’s more so a battle between the NBA’s bruised, but not yet beaten.
There’s a sense of pride that goes along with wearing each jersey, and that will surely be on display – regardless of record.
Follow Metro Boston Celtics beat writer Jimmy Toscano on Twitter @Jimmy_Toscano