If the Los Angeles Lakers are looking for some inspiration to remain positive after losing another key player, all they'll need to do is look across the TD Garden court Thursday night.
Pau Gasol is out indefinitely and Dwight Howard likely will miss a fourth straight game as the Lakers seek a seventh victory in eight tries when they face the surging Boston Celtics, who have won five straight since Rajon Rondo's season-ending injury.
Howard's sore right shoulder resulting from a partially torn labrum has kept him on the sidelines for the team's current three-game winning streak as Los Angeles (23-26) attempts to get into the Western Conference playoff picture.
The Lakers suffered another injury setback, though, as Gasol felt a pop in his right foot during Tuesday's 92-83 win at Brooklyn and was diagnosed with a torn plantar fascia after an MRI in Boston on Wednesday.
Kobe Bryant, who scored 21 points versus the Nets, has been more of a distributor during the team's surge, though he may need to look for his shot more with both big men out. He's averaging 17.4 points and 9.3 assists over the last seven games, compared to 29.2 points and 4.7 assists prior.
Los Angeles is 3-1 on its seven-game road trip that ends at East-leading Miami on Sunday.
"Now reality kind of sets in,' Bryant said. "If Pau can't go and Dwight can't go, we have to figure some things out.'
Coach Mike D'Antoni insists the Lakers can keep their momentum despite the injuries. The Lakers, who will have Metta World Peace back after he served a one-game suspension versus Brooklyn, are three games behind Houston for the final playoff spot.
"Hopefully we'll get Dwight back pretty soon and then hopefully Pau's not too bad,' D'Antoni said. "If not, we'll play.'
Los Angeles has won three straight regular-season meetings with the Celtics and five of the last six overall, including games 6 and 7 in the 2010 NBA finals.
Boston (25-23), though, has been on a roll since Rondo suffered a torn ACL in a double-overtime defeat at Atlanta on Jan. 25. That was the last time the Celtics lost, as they overcame a 10-point deficit to win on the road for the first time since Rondo went down, 99-95 at Toronto on Wednesday.
Kevin Garnett scored a season-high 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as Boston had at least five players in double figures for the fourth straight game.
"We're fighters,' Garnett said. "We're a team that's going to compete for 48 minutes. It's not always pretty. We're not perfect, we're human beings. But we play hard, we do our best to go out and try to perfect the game plan.'
Garnett, who shot 10 of 36 from the field in his last two home games against the Lakers, has four double-doubles in his last six games after recording eight in his first 42 contests.
"He's been phenomenal in this stretch and he's carried us offensively,' Paul Pierce, who missed 9 of 11 shots Wednesday but had 11 rebounds and six assists, said of Garnett.
Wednesday also marked coach Doc Rivers' 400th victory with the Celtics, as he joined Red Auerbach and Tom Heinsohn as the only others to accomplish the feat.
"That's cool,' Rivers said. "To be behind those two guys is pretty special for me.'
Los Angeles has won four straight regular-season meetings in Boston, three of which were decided by one point.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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