Pau Gasol Kevin Garnett
Pau Gasol has one year left on his contract. Reuters

The Los Angeles Lakers might be playing their best basketball of the season, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t controversy surrounding the team.

Dwight Howard has struggled in his first season with L.A., and much of it has been due to injuries. He underwent back surgery in April, and doesn’t seem to have fully recovered. The center also suffered a torn labrum this season, and has missed six games because of it, including the last three.

With the Lakers in danger of missing the postseason, some of the team’s biggest stars seem to think Howard should learn to play through his injury.

"We don't have time for (Howard's shoulder) to heal,” Kobe Bryant told ESPN”s Jackie MacMullan. “We need some urgency."

Steve Nash also expressed his thoughts on Howard’s injury.

"I think everyone has got to play through some pain in this league," said the point guard.

On Thursday night, the Lakers hope to have Howard back on the court. They are schedule to visit the Boston Celtics at TD Garden in a rivalry game that will be televised on TNT at 8 p.m. eastern time. Viewers can watch a free live stream online with TNT Overtime.

Howard’s status is uncertain for the game, but the center claims that if he can’t suit up, it is because he doesn’t want to risk further injury.

"I want to play," said Howard after Thursday’s shootaround. "I mean, why wouldn't I want to play? But, at the same time, this is my career, this is my future, this is my life. I can't leave that up to anybody else because nobody else is going to take care of me. So, if people are pissed off that I don't play or if I do play, whatever it may be, so what? This is my career. If I go down, then what? Everybody's life is going to go on. I don't want to have another summer where I'm rehabbing and trying to get healthy again.”

Despite Howard missing the past three games, Los Angeles has been victorious in all of them, and won six of their last seven. Boston has also played well without one of their best players, winning five straight since Rajon Rondo went down for the year.

It’s the first time that these two rivals will face off with each other in the 2012-2013 season. Both clubs have struggled with a core of aging stars, and can’t afford to play poorly in the second half of the year.

While the Celtics will only be without Rondo, the Lakers might be missing more than Howard. Pau Gasol won’t play for at least another few weeks. He suffered a partial right plantar fascia tear against the Brooklyn Nets, and could miss the next two months.

Without L.A.’s two big men on the court, Kevin Garnett could have one of his better performances this year. In his last contest, the veteran scored a season-high 27 points and recorded 10 rebounds.

Garnett helped pick up Paul Pierce, who struggled, shooting two of 11 from the field. Pierce leads Boston with 18.5 points per game, but has his lowest field goal percentage since 2004.

The Lakers injuries have made the Celtics 1.5-point favorites.

Prediction: Boston 99, Los Angeles 95