Extra Pass: Can Lakers pile on Celtics’ troubles?

Published January 28, 2023, 3:30 PMMiguel Flores

LeBron James and the Lakers hope to extend the Celtics’ losing streak to four games.

What's up with the Lakers?

LeBron James is about to break one of the holy grails of NBA records. For the last 34 years, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sat atop the all-time regular season scoring list with 38,387 points. LeBron is 157 points away from tying that record.

We called him “The Chosen One” before he ever stepped foot on an NBA court, and somehow, that nickname sold LeBron short. LeBron already technically has the most career points – playoffs and regular season combined. He broke the record last season and now has over 46,000 points. 

Kareem’s scoring record was built on determination, injury luck, and longevity. He ground out a 20-year career, retiring at 40 years old. He was still great in 1988, which was his final season, helping the Lakers win the second of back-to-back titles. 

LeBron is a tender 38 years old, putting up MVP numbers. He won’t just set the record, he’ll raise it to a level only another generational talent can probably break.

Given the historical milestones James is hurdling, the Lakers could be a bit better. Unlike James, the rest of the Lakers have been unlucky with injuries and, worse, mediocre on the court. But they’ve been getting better recently, seemingly rallying behind James’ historic run. Entering tomorrow, Los Angeles sits in the crowded middle of the Western Conference with a 23-26 record, just 2.5 games behind the sixth-placed Dallas Mavericks.

They also just got Anthony Davis back, who missed a month due to a foot injury. He went off for a double-double in his first game back last Friday and didn’t look far off from his dominant form before he broke his foot.

What’s up with the Celtics?

Boston, on paper, looks strong. They’re still the best defensive team in the league by most significant measures and, more importantly, they are still the top team in the league entering tomorrow with a 35-15 record.

But the Celtics, in a season where they’ve overcome incorporating a new head coach on short notice, finally sort of look shaky. They’ve lost their last three games – two close contests to the Miami Heat and New York Knicks and a crushing loss to the Orlando Magic. It’s no coincidence that Marcus Smart, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, was out for those three games due to an ankle injury.

Smart will continue to sit out tomorrow but the Celtics should still have enough in the tank to show off their elite form. They have Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown weaving an intricate tango on offense and pushing each other on defense. It was only two seasons ago that many wondered how long their relationship would last in Boston. Now, they’re the ideal duo to build a team around.

While we wouldn’t pass LeBron to go nuclear offensively at Boston tomorrow, it’s highly unlikely he drops 157 points. Even with the record out of reach, there’s still plenty of reason to watch this matchup.

This game means more to the Lakers at this point in the season as they climb up the standings. With Davis back in the fold, they get to test the waters again of what playoff basketball feels like.

But the Celtics under Joe Mazzula have a mean streak to them. They’re not likely to let this matchup just slip. Going against their storied rivals should be bulletin board material enough. 

And, most importantly, there shouldn’t be any talk of load management for either team as they each have had a day of rest between games. When you tune in tomorrow at 9:30 AM live on NBA League Pass, expect a complete experience.