LeBron James is a big student of the history of basketball and his place in it, and he would never miss a Lakers-Celtics game without good reason because it's easily the most storied rivalry in the history of the sport. Thus, it's something fo a surprise that James has been ruled out for Thursday's game in Boston, as has Anthony Davis, who missed the team's last game with an injury. The Celtics are now up to 14-point favorites on the SportsLine consensus, which has to be one of the biggest spreads in the series' history.
Again, that Davis is out is not a shock as he tweaked a groin issue on Monday in Houston and sat out Tuesday in Atlanta – the Lakers were routed in both games. However, James played both Monday and Tuesday and has been playing through an ankle problem for most of the season. The biggest reason that James originally left Cleveland for Miami back in the day? Because he could never get past the Celtics in the playoffs. Beating them still matters to him.
It truly feels like the Lakers know they aren't winning this game and have just decided to punt and hope to have both superstars healthy for Saturday's ABC national TV game against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden – another place game James will absolutely want to suit up for.
A blowout loss will not help the status of embattled Lakers coach Darvin Ham. Reports are that he has lost the locker room. There's a viral video (above) of Ham drawing up a play Tuesday. James' reaction seems to speak for itself. In the locker room post-game, James said this: "I don't have any message for my teammates, just go out and do your job," adding: "Way to cut me off because I was about to ..." Was he about to say something about Ham? That's the scuttlebutt.
Backup center Christian Wood also seemed to throw Ham under the bus before Tuesday's game by tweeting out "LOL" after the starting lineups were announced and Jaxson Hayes, who averages a scant 3.1 points per game in an average 10 minutes of floor time, got the start over him with Davis out. The early projected starting lineup for Thursday is D'Angelo Russell (he now has the highest over/under point total on the team at 22.5), Austin Reaves, Taurean Prince, Rui Hachimura and Jarred Vanderbilt. Cam Reddish and Gabe Vincent are still out with long-term injuries.
NBA-best Boston is at full health. The Celtics are 22-2 at home and look for the season sweep after winning 126-115 in L.A. on Christmas. James had a tough game with 16 points on 5-for-14 shooting but did have nine rebounds and eight assists. Davis had 40 points and 13 boards. Kristaps Porzingis led the Celtics with 28 points and 11 rebounds.
This is the biggest spread in a Celtics-Lakers game since at least 2010. The previous high was the Celtics -13.5 in Boston on Dec. 30, 2015. That Lakers team was horrible in Kobe Bryant's final season, but they won the game 112-104 behind 15 points and 11 rebounds from Kobe in his last game in Beantown. The only time this decade that Los Angeles was at least +14 was April 7, 2022 at Golden State when it closed on that number and lost 128-112. James and Davis missed that one, too.
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