BOSTON (CBS) -- The Celtics have gotten off to an impressive start this season. But if there is one thing they've yet to prove on a consistent basis, it's that they can beat the best teams that the NBA has to offer.
Boston is going to get the best team in the league on Saturday night in the Los Angeles Lakers. And LeBron James and company will be a pretty angry bunch when the two teams renew the NBA's best rivalry.
At 14-6 on the year, the defending champs have hit very few speed bumps this season. But they're currently riding their first losing streak of the season, dropping back-to-back road contests to the 76ers and the Pistons. Those were L.A.'s first two road losses of the 2021 campaign.
Anthony Davis sat out Thursday night's defeat in Motown, so he'll be well rested for Saturday night's primetime showdown with the Celtics. And James looks determined to win his fifth MVP this season, flirting with a triple-double every night, averaging 25.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 7.5 assists. He's dropped 30 or more points in three of his last five games.
Before the two-game skid, the Lakers had the best differential in the league. Their plus-eight differential is now second-best to the Bucks (plus-nine). They're holding opponents to 104 points per game, which is also good for second-best in the NBA.
It's a buzz saw that the 10-7 Celtics will have to deal with as they look to shake off Wednesday night's dismal loss in San Antonio. Saturday will be just the second time that Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker share the floor together this season, and hopefully it will go a lot better than Wednesday evening when Brad Stevens did a little too much tinkering with his rotations. The Celtics are also going to have to be much, much better at both their interior defense and their transition defense, because if they constantly give the Lakers a clear path to the basket, the game will be over quickly.
But their Christmas Day blowout loss to the Nets aside, the Celtics have been competitive against the other top teams that they've come across. They beat the Bucks on opening night. They lost both games in Philly last week, both winnable games for Boston, but the C's were also without Tatum for those contests. If you're into silver linings and moral victories, that 1-3 record isn't as bad as it may seem. Saturday night is a great chance to prove that point.
The Celtics and the Lakers split their two matchups last season, with each team winning on its home floor. The Celtics crushed the Lakers 139-107 in Boston on 27 points from Tatum and 20 each from Walker and Brown. That evening, Brown delivered a furious dunk over James.
Tatum's 27 points in Boston were just a warmup for his 41-point outburst in L.A. the following month, a performance that elevated him to superstar status and earned him some high praise from James, who called the Celtics star an "absolute problem" after the Lakers escaped with a 114-112 win. James hit a fadeaway over Tatum with 30 seconds to play, and Tatum was called for an offensive foul in the game's final seconds to propel Los Angeles to the victory.
With the two teams looking to shake off losses, and with the Celtics eager to prove they belong in the upper echelon of the NBA, Saturday night should provide another great (regular season) chapter in the history Celtics-Lakers rivalry.
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