With the Los Angeles Lakers schedule for the 2018-19 NBA season officially announced, marquee dates can now be marked on a calendar. One of which is Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019 when they face Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics.
The Lakers are the road team for that contest, and they host Boston just over one month later, Saturday, March 9, at Staples Center.
Now that James has joined the Lakers, the perception is the Eastern Conference is wide open. Led by Irving, a promising young core, and the eventual return of Gordon Hayward, many are projecting the Celtics to earn the No. 1 seed in the conference.
Though, in addition to Hayward, Irving is also coming off injury. He underwent surgery in April to remove two screws from his left patella after pathology from a March procedure suggested the presence of a bacterial infection.
April’s season-ending operation was to ensure that no infection remained in the knee. Irving remains on track to make a full recovery in time for training camp this fall.
Before his 2017-18 campaign was cut short, Irving and the Celtics played one of the more memorable games Staples Center saw last season. Boston led by as many as 14 points in the first half and made a late charge but the Lakers held on for a thrilling 108-107 victory.
They were led by Kyle Kuzma’s 28 points off the bench, with 17 coming in the fourth quarter thanks to a flurry of baskets. That offset the Lakers’ going 21-for-36 from the free throw line, including 7-of-17 in the fourth quarter.
Irving led all scorers with 33 points, to go along with three rebounds and four assists. But he inexplicably did not touch the ball on the Celtics’ final possession, which ended with a Marcus Smart three-point attempt at the buzzer.
Aside from the rivalry the Lakers and Celtics share, the matchup now has the added layer of former teammates James and Irving leading the way. Despite winning a championship together with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Irving sought a trade, with his request reportedly fueled by a rift with James.