Gasol-less Lakers resume rivalry with Celtics

The most storied rivalry in the NBA takes center stage Thursday night when the Los Angeles Lakers visit the Boston Celtics, although both teams will be down several key figures.

The Lakers are expected to be without the services of All-Star center Dwight Howard once again as the big man deals with an ailing shoulder. Howard has sat the last three for the Lakers, all of which have been victories.

But the bigger news came after Tuesday's gritty road victory in Brooklyn over the Nets.

Pau Gasol, who was playing very well in Howard's absence, suffered a tear of the plantar fascia on his right foot. He is expected to miss at least four-six weeks.

Officially, Howard is listed as questionable, but Gasol will certainly be out an extended period of time. If both are unavailable Thursday, L.A. will go with some combination of Earl Clark, Robert Sacre and Antawn Jamison.

"We'll see what happens," Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni told the "Mason & Ireland Show" on radio Wednesday. "Hopefully, Dwight will be back fairly soon, but you approach it like any other game. Guys got to step up."

Metta World Peace will return from a one-game suspension on Thursday. He missed the Nets game after an altercation with Brandon Knight of the Detroit Pistons.

The Lakers, who have won six of their last seven, closed the Nets game on a 10-0 run. Kobe Bryant was his usual dominant self with 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists, four steals and a block.

Steve Nash played perhaps his best game as a Laker with 17 points and eight assists. Gasol accounted for 15 points and Clark had a double-double with 14 points and 12 boards.

Thursday night's contest will be the fifth on a seven-game Grammy road trip.

The Celtics are also done two key pieces in the form of All-Star guard Rajon Rondo and rookie starter Jared Sullinger. Rondo is out after a torn ACL and Sullinger's first campaign ended with back surgery.

Despite these huge blows, the Celtics are undefeated since Rondo's injury. They've won five in a row, with the first four all home, then a road victory in Toronto on Wednesday night.

Boston overcame a 10-point deficit in the final quarter, thanks in part to both Kevin Garnett and Leandro Barbosa. Garnett scored 11 in the final frame and Barbosa added 12 to give the Celtics the 99-95 victory.

"We're fighters, we're a team that's going to compete for 48 minutes," said Garnett. "It's not always pretty and we're not perfect, we're human beings and we play hard."

Garnett finished with a season-high 27 points and 10 rebounds. Barbosa added 14 and four other Boston players scored in double figures. Paul Pierce registered a double-double with 12 points and 11 boards.

Doc Rivers, who earned his 400th victory as the Celtics coach, and his group have done it with defense during this five-game winning streak. They've held opponents to an average of 92.4 ppg and that included a double-overtime win over one of the league's top scoring teams, the defending champion Miami Heat.

The Lakers have won four in a row in Boston and nine of the last 13 overall in this series.