Monday, May 24, 2010

Celtics vs. Lakers: A History

The 2010 NBA playoffs have had far too many sweeps. There really hasn't been enough close games for the fans to enjoy. We can only hope that the Celtics-Lakers rivalry brings out a full blown, 7 game final series match-up. Now, it isn't official, but lets be honest. Does anyone outside of Arizona think the Suns could take the series? No. And we all know that even though the Celts may have lost this evening in OT, they are going to take the Eastern Conference Championship. So, with that approach...

The Celtics (with 17) and Lakers (with 15) have won more than half of all NBA championships. When the Finals are over this year, the Celts and the Lakers will have combined to have won 52 percent (33 of 64) of all NBA titles. They have played against each other in the finals 11 times with Boston winning nine, most recently in 2008.

The rivalry has spanned generations.

The Lakers were still playing in the land of 10,000 lakes (hence the name) when the Red Auerbach/Bill Russell Celtics first met them in the Finals. It was a four-game sweep for Boston at the old Boston Garden. It was the first of seven meetings involving Russell and the Lakers and the Celtics won it every time.

It was 1962 when the Lakers met the Celtics for the second time, this time in Los Angeles. The Lakers pushed Boston to a seventh game and L.A. had a chance to win it, but Frank Selvy took a buzzer-beater that somehow got the win and the Celtics, of course, won the series in overtime.

From 1959-66 the Celtics won eight consecutive championships and four times they beat the Lakers in the Finals.

L.A. grew more frustrated toward the end of the 1960s. The Celtics looked old and vulnerable (hmmm... sound familiar?) in 1968, but still managed to beat L.A. in six games.

The 1969 Lakers had West, Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain. They went 8-1 in their first two playoff series. The Celtics were a 48-34 team with six players over 30 (same as this year). Los Angeles won the first two games of the series. At that time, no team in NBA history had lost a Finals series after winning the first two games.

Boston battled back and before Game 7, Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke lined the Forum ceiling with balloons and even had hired the USC marching band to play "Happy Days Are Here Again" when the Lakers won.

But the Lakers lost. Again. Chamberlain took himself out of the game in the fourth quarter and never returned. Russell won his 11th championship in 13 seasons, his seventh against the Lakers.

The rivals did not meet again until Larry Bird and Magic Johnson revived the NBA in the 1980s. In 1984, the Celtics and Lakers played for the first time since the 1969 Russell-Chamberlain finale and produced one of the greatest series in NBA history. Unfortunately for folks in L.A., the Lakers lost again (starting to see a trend?).

One year later there was redemption for Magic, Worthy and coach Pat Riley. After losing eight consecutive Finals to the hated Celtics, the Lakers won the championship in the old Boston Garden in six games. It remains the career highlight for Riley, Magic and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Boston and L.A. met three times in four years with the Lakers winning the series in six games in 1987.

That was it for the Celtics. They didn't get back to the Finals until 2008 and then the rivalry was renewed- they returned to the championship round to play the Lakers. Once again, the Lakers were favored by just about everyone. And just like in the old days, the Celtics won it all. Paul Pierce outplayed Kobe Bryant and Boston won it in six games. The Lakers were a disgrace at the finish. Boston ran to a 43-point lead, winning the finale, 131-92. It was embarrassing for Kobe and Pau Gasol.

The defending champions, the Lakers, are still angry about their “six-game sweep” from two years ago. The Celtics would love to prove to the world—and especially to the Lakers—that had they been at full-strength last season, they’d be shooting for a third straight title right now.

There are 10 Lakers on the current roster who were on the team that lost by 39 points in the deciding Game Six two years ago. They want it bad.

Eight Celtics still remain from their title team—including all five starters. They need to prove themselves.

Now the Lakers are back and they'll have home court advantage. L.A. is feeling good about its chances.

But have you seen a trend? The Celtics will likely find a way to win this one, too.

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