By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) –  The Celtics host the Lakers in a prime time Thursday night showdown at the Garden in what should be a battle of East vs. West powerhouses.

Wait, that’s not right. There’s something missing — a lot missing actually.

Maybe it’s the fact neither team is atop their respective conferences as was expected when the schedule first came out. The Celtics are clinging to the final spot in the East (not that anyone is really testing them for it), teetering on mediocrity despite their current five-game win streak. Then out in La-La land, the Lakers are on the outside looking in at 23-26. They’ve been not only been riddled with injuries but drama that rivals that of daytime television – meaning way too over-dramatic and sometimes unbearable to watch (but they do have the Laker Girls at least).

As for those injuries, Thursday night will be missing three of the premiere players on either side. There’s no Rajon Rondo for the Celtics, who would have undoubtedly put up another one of his patented triple-doubles on a national stage. The Lakers will likely be without Dwight Howard, who is nursing (strong emphasis on nursing) a shoulder injury, and Pau Gasol who is now out 4-6 weeks with a foot injury.

Read: Belichick’s Pep Talk To Kobe

It’s not really the game anyone anticipated when the Lakers brought Howard and Steve Nash in during the offseason, and the Celtics touted a new revamped bench with Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and rookie Jared Sullinger.

But still, it’s Celtics-Lakers. For basketball lovers and novices alike, it will still be must-watch television, no matter how ugly it might get.

It won’t be those glorious matchups from the ’80s, or the recent hard-fought tilts that saw Garnett jawing away at Gasol (or vice-versa). With the lack of bigs on both side, prepare for a lot of small-ball, and a lot of Kobe Bryant.

But that’s not always a bad thing. A Kobe and Pierce matchup, what could be the last one at the Garden, is rarely not entertaining. Even with Kobe battling elbow tendonitis, and Pierce battling old-Pierce, it has the making for another thrilling showdown.

Read: Pierce Doesn’t Want To Go Through Another Rebuild In Boston

If not, at least Ron Artest – fresh off another suspension — is there to give Pierce’s shorts a little tug again.

Thursday night is certainly not the must-see-TV people are accustomed to when the Celtic and Lakers matchup. It lacks the aura and glamour of what we’d expect. But in the end, it’s still Celtics-Lakers; one of the best rivalries in all of sports.

While neither team has really been all that great to watch on consistent basis, it’s hard to pass up Celtics-Lakers.

And unlike Red Sox-Yankees when either team isn’t all that great, it won’t last five hours.

Follow Matthew Geagan on Twitter @MattyGWBZ


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