Lakers at Celtics: The Franchise Tiebreaker
The Lakers and Celtics are going into today's game from different developing stages from a franchise perspective. Both stages are positive, but one of them has a more immediate payoff than the other. Either way, the talk around this game is that both franchises are tied at 3,252 wins a piece, and if the Celtics win, it will bring the Lakers' 16-year stand as the all-time "winningest" team to an end.
The Los Angeles Lakers already have the same number of wins this season as they had for the entire 2016 season (17). That's really not saying much because a record of 17-36 is still nowhere near playoff potential. They would have to go on an unprecedented, and absolute tear to even snag the eighth seed. The Suns are the only team beneath them in the Western Conference (15-34). Although their record is still terrible, the franchise is on an upswing because that means they are better than they were last season. It might be a slight upswing, but it's looking up nonetheless.
The upswing for the Lakers parallels the development of the young players on the team. Other teams would love to have a young core with the likes of Julius Randle, Deangelo Russell, and Brandon Ingram. With a little experience, those guys will be a force to be reckoned with. Perhaps the addition of Magic Johnson to the front office will help the franchise make the proper decisions to help these guys get some wins.
The Boston Celtics are sitting at 31-18, only 2.5 games back from the top team in the East, and defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers. Last year they were 32-23 going into the all-star break, so things are looking pretty good for them in terms of record. They entered the playoffs as the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, only to get eliminated in the first round by the Atlanta Hawks. Unlike the Lakers, the Celtics are practically guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.
The recent success of the Celtics is credited to the quick little guy named Isaiah Thomas. His fourth-quarter play has helped them win games like you wouldn't believe; he's averaging about 19 points in the fourth quarter in the month of January. His size doesn't slow him down at all. He's quick enough to get to his spots, and whether he's open or not, he can put the ball through the net. It has been pretty exciting to watch him come into his own in Boston.
Despite this game being a franchise all-time win tiebreaker, the Lakers / Celtics rivalry should also add to the intensity in this game. The two franchises have a long history together, but they also look drastically different from when they were legitimate championship contenders. The rivalry kind of gets swept under the rug when one of the teams has no chance of making it to the playoffs. Maybe the young Lakers will use that history as inspiration and motivation to go out and get a big win tonight! That would be exciting to see. However, the Lakers just don't have that will to win like they did when they had (a healthy) Kobe Bryant. So, I see the Celtics crushing the Lakers in Boston tonight by about 20 or 30 points.