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Lakers hope to take from past but stay in present against Celtics

As the old rivals prepare to meet Sunday, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson says there are lessons to be learned from their seven-game NBA Finals victory over Boston last June . . . and also from their desultory loss to Sacramento on Friday.

January 29, 2011|By Mike Bresnahan
  • Kobe Bryant leads the Lakers' celebration after beating the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the NBA Finals back in June.
Kobe Bryant leads the Lakers' celebration after beating the Boston… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

The confetti has long been swept up, the arena cleaned a few hours after the Lakers showered in celebratory streamers and bathed in champagne last June.

Not to worry. The gang's back together Sunday for a refresher course on essential basketball at Staples Center, the Lakers taking on the Boston Celtics for the first time since that excruciatingly tense Game 7 in last season's NBA Finals.

If it seems like an eternity since that game, it's understandable, more than seven months having passed since Ron Artest carried the Lakers with 20 points, Pau Gasol shredded the Celtics with 19 points and 18 rebounds, and Kobe Bryant made only six of 24 shots as the Lakers somehow rebounded from a 13-point third-quarter deficit to win, 83-79.

It was one of the finest hours in the Lakers' long and prosperous history.

"I agree," Bryant said. "It was a tough one for sure, having to come back the way that we did and taking it from them the way that we did."

Fast forward to now, and neither team tore apart the league coming into Sunday, the Lakers losing at home Friday to woeful Sacramento while the Celtics tripped and fell in Phoenix.

The Celtics (35-11) have a few skeletons in their schedule, becoming one of the teams that actually lost to eight-win Cleveland and also dropping games to Detroit, Toronto and Washington.

The Lakers (33-14) have also had well-documented issues against good teams (Miami, Dallas, San Antonio) and sub-.500 ones (Milwaukee, Indiana, Sacramento, Memphis).

Coach Phil Jackson kept the Lakers for almost three hours at Saturday's practice, reviewing their latest clunker and also showing video clips of their 89-67 victory in Game 6 against the Celtics last June.

They were stellar defensively in that game, unlike Friday against Sacramento, which was Jackson's point entirely. He said he wanted to remind the Lakers of the "animation and the activity level" they had in the NBA Finals "as opposed to the activity and the level we were playing at [Friday] night."

It registered, presumably, during Saturday's video session.

"Yeah. It was long, right?" guard Derek Fisher said. "We normally like to cover good and bad things from the previous game before moving on to our next opponent. Because we were so bad [Friday] night, it took us a lot longer to get through the things we needed to cover."

The Lakers fell behind the Kings by 20 points, something they couldn't dream of doing against the Celtics if they expected to win.

Boston is only getting stronger, welcoming back beefy center Kendrick Perkins last week from off-season knee surgery. Kevin Garnett has had a solid bounce-back season after averaging only 14.3 points last season, his lowest since his rookie year, and Rajon Rondo is averaging an NBA-best 12.5 assists a game.

Said Fisher: "They're going to play hard, they're going to defend, they're going to help each other, they're going to share the ball on offense and very rarely are they going to beat themselves."

He's wearing green

Shaquille O'Neal is with his sixth team in a 19-year career, though there doesn't seem to be much animosity among the Lakers with his choice to join their arch-rivals last July.

"I don't think it's too weird," Bryant said. "I don't really hold too much significance to the fact that he's playing for the Celtics. Nor should I think Lakers fans as a whole."

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