Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE
The beat up Lakers face the beat up Celtics in the early game and the Bulls head to Denver to play the surging Nuggets in the late game on TNT tonight.
It's a TNT night with just two games scheduled, both on national TV. In the early game, the Lakers are visiting the Celtics, pitting the two most storied franchises against one another in a season that has been full of adversity for each of them. Neither the Lakers nor the Celtics, teams that faced each other in the NBA Finals as recently as 2010, are locks to make the playoffs this season. Currently, the Celtics are tied with the Bucks for the final two spots in the East while the Lakers are tenth in the West, three games behind the Rockets and four and a half back of the Jazz. But both teams are beat up, with the Celtics recently losing Rajon Rondo and rookie Jared Sullinger, while the Lakers just lost Paul Gasol for about six weeks, and may or may not have Dwight Howard tonight. So far the Celtics have handled adversity better, defying expectations by winning four in a row since Rondo was hurt. The Lakers on the other hand have faced plenty of adversity this season -- and have yet to handle it well.
The late game has the Nuggets hosting the Bulls, and Denver is suddenly very much a "team of interest" in Clips Nation. With Memphis and Golden State going through some tough times right now, it's the surging Nuggets who are now directly behind the Clippers in the Western Conference standings. The Clippers still have a three game lead over the Nuggets for third place in the conference, but Denver has won seven in a row and the banged up Clippers have two tough road games looming Friday and Sunday. Oh, and do you remember that terrible road-heavy schedule with which the Nuggets started the season? Well, as of tonight they will have made up the difference, playing their 25th home game against 25 road games. Meanwhile, the Clippers have now played 26 road games (with three more to come on the Grammy trip) versus 25 home games. So there's no need to feel sorry for the Nuggets anymore. More importantly, they're probably going to have to improve on their .400 road winning percentage down the stretch if they are serious about holding onto a top four playoff seed.