Pregame: Rivalry, cupcakes, snowstorms

BOSTON -- Don't tell Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers that Thursday's game against the rival Los Angeles Lakers has lost any of its luster because of the two teams' struggles over the first half of the season.

"They still wear that same color. And we wear the same color," Rivers said. "Through all of it, it’s still the same thing, you enjoy the game because they are fun. Kobe [Bryant is] there; Kevin [Garnett] and Paul [Pierce] are there. It always will be fun. It’s more, we’re just playing right now; we’re not dealing with anything. They have more firestorms going on. Give them credit, they’ve won six out of seven through it. In some ways, it may be helping them."

Informed that Lakers center Dwight Howard had deemed himself a game-time decision, Rivers smiled and noted, "He’s playing ... we’ve only prepared for one way."

As for his own center, Rivers said he wouldn't limit Garnett on the second night of a back-to-back.

"It’s not a game-to-game thing with Kevin’s minutes; it’s more the accumulative of the year," Rivers said. "We’ve had eight overtimes, I think, that hasn’t helped at all with him. So it’s just, we get through the year and try to keep him as fresh as possible."

A couple of other pregame notes:

* CUPCAKES AND GAME BALLS: Boston players presented Rivers with the game ball from his 400th regular-season win as Celtics coach on their flight home from Toronto on Wednesday night. Rivers was genuinely touched as Garnett and Pierce each said some words while addressing the team. Rivers responded by getting his players Georgetown Cupcakes from Newbury Street and leaving them personalized notes in their lockers with the sugary snacks. "They were very nice on the plane last night after the game," Rivers said. When a reporter playfully asked whether he was trying to send a message to his team about being "cupcakes," Rivers laughed and quipped, "I’ve done that already, that didn’t work."

* BRACING FOR THE STORM: Rivers said he hadn't talked to his team about the snowstorm set to invade the region Friday but admitted it might alter the team's practice plans. Boston typically takes a day off after a back-to-back but was hoping to be back on the practice floor Saturday. "It looks like we're not [going to practice] because of what they are [forecasting]," he said. Rivers did keep it light when asked whether he typically tells his players about impending weather woes. "When I was in Orlando, we didn’t talk a lot about the snowstorms coming up," Rivers joked.