They were playing the best NBA team L.A. had to offer. And it was all to take place on Martin Luther King Day, a holiday of deep meaning for opportunity and inclusion to so many in this league.
So they played, before the usual Clippers Staples sellout, this time 19,060.
But these weren't the real Celtics. This was not a team to hate. More one to pity. These were the 13-25 Celtics, soon to become 13-26.
And doing the damage wasn't the historic Los Angeles NBA team that had battled those Bostonians for so long. It was L.A.'s current best, the Clippers, who won with mostly a shrug, despite a late surge that had cut their lead to three.
The final score was 102-93. The only thing that could have produced an actual winning rally by these rebuilding Celtics was if the Clippers had slipped on their Green Bay Packers uniforms for the last three minutes.
The Celtics are rebuilding. Their coach is the man who got us excited for a couple of years about Butler basketball. His name is Brad Stevens. He is 38 and looks about 17.
We'd list the starting five, but you'd nod off. At the end of the first period, a fan was given a half-court shot to win some money. He not only missed badly, but fell on his face on the follow-through. Rumors are the Celtics may give him a tryout.
Still, despite the lack of competition for the now 28-14 Clippers, and their put-it-on-cruise-control victory, it was an entertaining day.
The kind of day when:
• Blake Griffin, among the most bruising presences near the basket in the NBA, scored 22 points and most were on jump shots.
• Chris Paul didn't shoot a free throw until 1 minute 21 seconds was left in the game.
• J.J. Reddick got a breakaway after a steal by DeAndre Jordan and didn't even bother going all the way to the basket for a layup. He stopped and shot a three-pointer. All net, and less wear and tear on your legs.
• On a tip-in attempt, Spencer Hawes and Jordan both went for the slam putback. To the delight of Clippers teammates on the bench, Hawes won the jump-off and got the basket. He is 7-foot-1, Jordan 6-11. Suffice to say, their vertical jumps are not similar.
Jordan will be living with this for a while in the locker room.
It was also the kind of day when Clippers Coach Doc Rivers, himself once a hated Celtic, took storytelling to new heights.
The pregame issue continued to be about his son, Austin, who recently joined the team as a reserve guard and produced the first-ever combination of father coaching son in the NBA.
It started innocently enough. Rivers was asked, when pondering the trade that acquired his son, if he called his wife or his son first.
"Good question," he said. "I talked to Kristen a lot before, and she pretty much said, if he can help the team, get him.
"I can't say I talked to Austin because that might be considered tampering by the league."
He said that Kristen would be at Monday's game, but that she missed one of her son's first games as a Clipper.
"She missed her plane," River said. "She was fined, the usual $500,000, which goes into the Rivers family fund."
An innocent question followed. Austin was born in Santa Monica in 1992, when his dad was a Clippers player. Where was the birth? What hospital?
"St. John's, I guess … it's the only one," Rivers said, continuing on. "We almost didn't make it. We were at a Mexican restaurant in Malibu. Dave Wohl [current Clippers general manager] was with us and he started putting papers on the floor of the car.
"I told him, hey, we're having a baby, not puppies."
One can only imagine how much newsprint might be spread at the foot of Austin's locker before the next game. NBA teams rank high in locker-room pranks.
Rivers delivered again after the game. This time, the tone was more serious, but the story, though familiar, was no less compelling.
"I talk to my team every year [on Martin Luther King Day]," he said. "This year, I told them the story of George Raveling."
Raveling is a former USC basketball coach.
"Raveling [now 77] was working security that day," Rivers said.
It was Aug. 28, 1963. King spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Attendance was estimated at 250,000.
"It was the 'I Have a Dream' speech, and Raveling was right next to Dr. King when he made it," Rivers said. "In the film, you can see him standing right there.
"After it was done, he asked Dr. King if he could have the copy of the prepared speech he had just delivered. King gave it to him. He still has it."
The kicker to the story, of course, is that the phrase that may have propelled the civil rights movement further forward than anything else, King's "I Have a Dream" wasn't in the prepared text. King had ad-libbed it.
Rivers told interviewers he might not be where he was if not for King. After the game, Paul said much the same and added that it meant even more, now that he has to explain to his young son about the day and the man for whom it is named.