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Stopping the tank: Boston Celtics at Los Angeles Lakers preview

With just 28 games left, the Lakers have few incentives to win in any given game. Tonight, one of those very few reasons creeps into STAPLES Center clad in green.

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Showtime: 7:30 pm PT

Plot: The Lakers are tied for last in the Western Conference. They're on pace for their worst record in Los Angeles history. The trade deadline is over, with most players staying pat. The only new guys we have to watch out for are two fellows that might not get recognized if they were eating lunch at Lawry's Carvery across the street from STAPLES.

Really, the only thing most Lakers fans will have to root for is maximum effort, every night, but ultimately hoping for a loss. With rare exception.

This would be one of those exceptions.

The Boston Celtics come to town, though the classic rivalry might not be the marquee attraction it was even twelve months ago. The C's are suffering through a season that's rivaling the Lakers', with their star player Rajon Rondo sitting out most of the year with injury and young players and vets trying to pick up the pieces in the interim. Boston is 19-36 on the year, just a shade better than LA, and is clearly gunning for a high pick in the upcoming June draft. The Celtics are on a relative roll as of late, going 4-3 on the month with wins against fellow bottom feeders Sacramento, Milwaukee, Orlando and Philadelphia. Still, a victory is a victory, and this Boston team, like the Lakers, refuse to fold in the tents as some fans would insist upon.

The Lakers will look slightly different tonight, as new acquisitions Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks could get some burn, especially with the personnel shortage. Picked up in the Steve Blake trade, these two swingmen are on a 28 game audition to see if the team should have any interest in re-signing them next season. As Ben and I discussed on the Silver Screen & Rollcast last night (check it out!), Brooks has some upside as a Nick Young-like offensive contributor off the bench, while Bazemore's raw athleticism and length could help him blossom into a decent bench player going forward. There's a lot to watch for from these two, as they're not just throw-in stiffs to a salary dump deal. They're both legitimate prospects for next year's team, and with injuries to Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Xavier Henry and Nick Young, I wouldn't be surprised to see them peak their heads in at some point tonight.

Barring any unforeseen setbacks, Pau Gasol should also rejoin the team after a two week absence, giving the Lakers a staggering 11 healthy players for the first time in over a month. It's stunning how blessed we should feel that nearly a third of the team is still out with injuries.

This won't be an easy game for the Lakers, as demonstrated in recent home losses to the likes of the Utah Jazz and Charlotte Bobcats. The Show is currently on their longest losing streak in LA, falling in eight consecutive games. A ninth would be another disgraceful mark on a forgettable season that would be made all the more worse if it were at the hands of the hated Celtics. The Lakers will certainly have their hands full even as Rondo and teammates Jared Sullinger and Jeff Green swing wildly between playing fantastic and inefficient from night to night.

With the trade deadline over, it's clear that the Lakers and their fans are looking forward to the future. Every loss is "good" for the franchise, no matter how embarrassing. But, just for this one night, similar to the one a month ago in Boston, the tank must be put on hold. No Laker, nor any one person in the fan base, should be hoping for a loss tonight.

This is Lakers-Celtics. The devils in green must be defeated at all costs. Go Lakers.


--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino

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