LOS ANGELES – The Lakers have been waiting more than six months for another shot at the Boston Celtics. Now that they’ll get it, they might not like it.
The Celtics, winners of a franchise-record 19 straight games and off to the best two-loss start in NBA history, visit Staples Center on Thursday for a Christmas Day matchup with the Lakers.
The game will be the first between the teams since the Celtics romped to a 131-92 victory in Game 6 of the NBA finals last June to win their first championship in 22 years and 17th overall.
“No secrets,” Lakers forward Pau Gasol said after a light practice Wednesday. “We know what’s going to happen. We’re going to have to match their physicality, they’re going to have to match our strengths.”
While the game might be the most hyped of the regular season, finals MVP Paul Pierce played down its importance after the Celtics beat visiting Philadelphia 110-91 on Tuesday night and before the team boarded a plane for its cross-country flight.
The partisan crowd in Boston began a “Beat L.A.” chant midway through the fourth quarter.
“If we beat the Lakers, do we get anything for it? Do we win another championship? Do we get another ring? No. It’s just another game on the schedule that we have to play,” the Celtics star said.
“Truthfully, I think the media and the fans make it more than what it really is. This is for the fans. That’s why they put it on the commercials. That’s why they put it in the newspapers and that’s why they make it on Christmas Day.
“This is for the fans and the media but for us, it’s another opportunity to get better and build on what we’re trying to do because the ultimate goal is winning a championship.”
And that, as everyone knows, can’t happen until June.
“I think it’s going to be a fun game. I can’t wait,” Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic said. “It’s personal. They took something away from us last June. They reached their goal and we didn’t. The feelings in that Boston locker room will never go away. I don’t like them at all.”
The Celtics bring in a 27-2 record while the Lakers are a Western Conference-leading 23-5 following a 100-87 victory at New Orleans on Tuesday night in the finale of a four-game road trip.
The Lakers enter the game with an 11-game winning streak at home, giving them a 14-1 home record this season.
“It’s good for the game,” Lakers star Kobe Bryant said of the pregame buildup. “Growing up in high school, you hear Bulls and Knicks, Lakers-Celtics and all this other stuff.
“The hype is what creates the atmosphere and the energy for people who watch the game. It’s enjoyable for us to be a part of it. I know if I was coming up in high school, I’d be tuning in, just like everybody else.”
Millsap still questionable
SALT LAKE CITY – Jazz forward Paul Millsap is listed as questionable for Friday’s game against Dallas because of a hyperextended left knee.
Millsap was having an MRI on Wednesday, but the Jazz said results weren’t expected until Friday.
Millsap hurt his knee late in the second quarter Tuesday night at Milwaukee and was helped to the locker room. He returned for the second half with a brace on the knee.
Millsap finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, snapping his streak of 15 straight double-doubles.