WALTHAM It's not unusual for the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers to face each other standing among the elite teams in their respective conferences.
But middle of the pack? That's not normal.
The abnormality has been the reality over the course of this lockout-shortened season, one in which both the Celtics (14-10) and Lakers (14-11) haven't enjoyed the kind of success they've been accustomed to in recent years.
Still, you're talking about two teams with core guys who have been through the many ups and downs that come with an NBA season.
Because of that, no one on either side is in panic mode.
"We're still learning, growing," C's forward Chris Wilcox recently told CSNNE.com. "As we keep playing more with each other, guys keep getting healthier, we'll be OK."
The condensed schedule combined with core guys for both teams being older, has certainly played a role in both teams getting off to less-than-stellar starts.
"We're both not necessarily young," said Lakers star Kobe Bryant. "We both been around the block twice. In this particular season, it's taken us a little longer to get going than some of the other guys."
Even with both teams off to slow starts, that doesn't take away or diminish the rivalry that exists between the two most storied franchises in the NBA history.
"It always is," said Bryant when asked about whether facing the Celtics was a special game. "It's always special when you come to Boston."
Especially for the Lakers who come into tonight's game having won the last three at the TD Garden.
While the Celtics would love nothing more than to send the Lakers on their way with a third straight loss, of greater importance is for the C's to re-establish themselves as a power at home.
Boston is currently 10-6 at home, which is 62.5 percent winning percentage.
In the Big Three era, the C's have only had a lower winning percentage at home once (.585) in the 2009-2010 season, which ended with the Celtics losing to the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
"We want everybody to come to the Garden and have a party," said Boston's Mickael Pietrus. "Right now, we're playing extremely well. We're trying to make a statement, the Garden is our home and we gonna make sure we take care of business at home."