Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, left, drives past Boston forward Paul Pierce… (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / U.S.…)
Reporting from Boston — It does not matter where the Lakers and Boston Celtics play each other.
That's because the rivalry between the Lakers and Celtics, the two teams with the most NBA championships, is so intense and historic.
They will square off Thursday night at the TD Garden, but the venue is not important.
Each team has won recently on the other's court.
The Lakers won here in the regular season last season, and they won Game 3 of the NBA Finals here in June. And the Celtics defeated the Lakers, 109-96, at Staples Center on Jan. 30 and won Game 2 in the Finals in Los Angeles last year.
"If we were to play a game in the park against that team, it would be hard-core and [trash] talking," Lamar Odom said after the Lakers' practice Wednesday. "It's always going to be intense when you respect a team. You don't have to disrespect a team to want to kick their [butt]. You have that much respect for them, which intensifies the game."
It took seven tough, intense games, but the Lakers finally defeated the Celtics in the NBA Finals for the franchise's 16th title, one behind Boston. The Celtics had defeated the Lakers in the 2008 Finals, winning in six games.
"In our situation, our rivalry has become more real than others because we've faced them in the Finals twice [recently]," Kobe Bryant said. "And the history that's involved, I think it holds a little bit more substance than the rivalry that we have with the Spurs, for example."
However, the Celtics might not be the same team the Lakers faced in January.
Paul Pierce, who torched the Lakers for 32 points on 11-for-18 shooting in that game, missed practice Wednesday because of flu symptoms.
Celtics Coach Doc Rivers told the Boston media that he was "assuming" Pierce would play against the Lakers.
The Celtics won't have center Shaquille O'Neal (inflamed Achilles' tendon) or small forward Marquis Daniels (bruised spinal cord), who both played in last week's game. Centers Jermaine O'Neal (knee injury) and reserve Semih Erden (strained leg muscle) are also sidelined.
But Lakers Coach Phil Jackson pointed out the Celtics still have "the three main" players in their frontcourt — Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis.
"We only have three big guys that we work with," Jackson said, referring to Odom, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum.
After practice Wednesday, Jackson hadn't yet shown his team the video of the most recent loss to the Celtics, but the Lakers were going to see it at some point.
"That would be good for us to watch," Odom said. "We can watch it and learn from it."
It was a game in which the Celtics outrebounded the Lakers (43-30) and shot 60.3% from the field, the third-highest ever by Boston against the Lakers.
"It's a midnight showing," Jackson joked. "No, they won't like it. It's no fun to watch yourself lose a game like that."