Both teams were highly-touted before the season began with the Lakers' high-profile additions of Steve Nash and Dwight Howard and the Celtics' improved bench depth (returns of Jeff Green and Chris Wilcox and additions of Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Jared Sullinger, primarily*)
*There was some optimism too with the acquisitions of Leandro Barbosa and Darko Milicic
But for one reason or another both teams struggled through the early part of the season. Lakers blamed part of it initially on coaching then soon after replacing Mike Brown with Pringles D'Antoni tussled with some drama with Dwight over his injured shoulders and his commitment to the team. The Celts' issues, on the other hand, weren't as clear early on as the supposedly deep bench failed to deliver as advertised. Then the criticisms surfaced (many aimed at Green), Darko left and the injuries occurred (Rondo, Sully, Barbosa) - none more crucial than the torn ACL which sidelined Triple-Double King Rajon Rondo for the year.
The C's though remained within the playoff picture for the most part - even coming within striking range of the Atlantic division title following a couple of significant post-Rondo win streaks. But even with a minor trade deadline acquisition (Jordan Crawford) who has paid some dividends, a bench which finally warmed up and a legit force who pleasantly emerged in Jeff Green, the C's rolled unevenly after the All-Star break and unconvincingly challenged for a playoff seeding that was better than seventh.
The Lakers, meanwhile, were deemed out of the playoffs in January by no less than their own legend Magic Johnson and up until this past month were in line to miss the playoffs for the first time in eight years (and just the sixth time in their 65-year history). But then the Lakers rallied, fended off Utah (and also Dallas) then finally leap-frogged Houston into seventh spot. Along the way they lost their MVP, Kobe Bean, for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.**
**Lakers also lost team owner Dr. Jerry Buss to a lingering illness in February.
So here they both are - two storied NBA franchises splitting 33 World Championships (17 for the Celtics) and a multitude of league records and awards - battling through a rocky 2013 with injured team leaders and entering the playoffs as identical seventh seeds. No rivalry could be more intertwined. Wouldn't it be a trip if both teams somehow managed to play themselves into a matchup in June?
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