Must win?

BOSTON -- Bring on the Lakers.

Reeling after dropping back-to-back games to Eastern Conference rivals Orlando and Atlanta to start a grueling stretch (four games in four cities over five nights), the Boston Celtics stumble home, as close to rock bottom as they've been since the Big Three united two years ago.

On a day the Celtics could desperately use a visit from the likes of the four-win New Jersey Nets (that won't come until later in the week), they get the 36-win Lakers on Sunday afternoon (3:30 ET, on ABC). Typically, defending NBA champions are the last team you want to face in a game tagged with a must-win stamp.

A loss Sunday would match the Celtics' longest losing streak of the season (three). Boston has already endured two three-game skids while dropping 10 of their past 16 overall.

What would sting most about a loss Sunday is that it would come against yet another elite team, the type the Celtics will have to hurdle if they are to accomplish their ultimate goal of winning another NBA title.

"We gotta do a better job," said captain Paul Pierce. "The Lakers are coming in Sunday and it feels like a must-win. These are teams we'll see in the playoffs and we're giving them a psychological edge."

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