Storied franchises to meet on game's ultimate stage

Boston's new Big Three has reached the NBA's big stage. And just like their predecessors, they'll share it with the Los Angeles Lakers.


The Celtics and Lakers are meeting again in the NBA Finals, with Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett taking their place alongside the likes of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in the league's most storied rivalry.

"It's a dream come true, man, just thinking about it," said Boston's Paul Pierce, who grew up in Los Angeles. "I think that rivalry really revolutionized the game of basketball, and now I'm a part of it."

It will be the 11th championship meeting between the franchises, with Boston winning eight of its NBA-best 16 titles against the Lakers. But Los Angeles won the past two, in 1985 and '87.

Boston earned its first trip since by beating the Detroit Pistons in six games in the Eastern Conference final. The Celtics ended the series with an 89-81 victory Friday and will play host to Game 1 on Thursday night.

Garnett, Pierce and Ray Allen, Boston's three All-Stars, are all in the finals for the first time.

Boston won only 24 games in 2006-07 but led the NBA with a 66-16 mark this season.

Los Angeles eliminated the San Antonio Spurs in five games, wrapping up the series with a 100-92 victory on Thursday. Bryant, the league MVP, is averaging 31.9 points in the postseason.

Bryant helped the Lakers win three consecutive titles from 2000-02, and they fell short of another with a loss to the Pistons in 2004.

A frustrated Bryant criticized the front office after last summer's loss to Phoenix and said he wanted to be traded. Instead, the Lakers kept him and upgraded the team around him, including the acquisition of Pau Gasol from Memphis.

The Celtics haven't won a title since Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish led them past Houston in 1986. Boston and the Lakers of Magic, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dominated the NBA in the 1980s: From 1980-88, the two rivals won all but one of the nine NBA championships -- three for Boston and five for Los Angeles.



All games scheduled to start at 9 p.m.

THURSDAY: Los Angeles at Boston

JUNE 8: Los Angeles at Boston

JUNE 10: Boston at Los Angeles

JUNE 12: Boston at Los Angeles

JUNE 15: Boston at Los Angeles*

JUNE 17: Los Angeles at Boston*

JUNE 19: Los Angeles at Boston*

* if necessary



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