Thursday, February 5, 2009

Celtics-Lakers Go Another Round Tonight

It never gets old. Over all the decades and all the changed names and faces, just saying "Celtics-Lakers tonight" puts a hop in your step. Once again, the two titans square off with home-court advantage for the Finals very much in play, and no one doubts for a moment that these two will meet again in four months.

The Lakers halted the Celtics epic 19-game winning streak the last time in L.A. on Christmas Day. The Celtics are streaking again, and the Lakers, like last June, are without x-factor Andrew Bynum, so look for the Celtics to avenge that loss and send a strong message to their purple and gold friends.

Anytime these teams meet, it conjures up memories of the Bird-Magic era of the 1980s. Steve Buckley of the Boston Herald got their thoughts today on the rivalries' current incarnation. Those classic battles were not limited to the three Finals appearances in 1984, 1985 and 1987. Here's a flashback to three epic regular season battles at the Boston Garden:

Jan. 22, 1986: While the Boston sports scene was captivated by the Patriots' amazing run to Super Bowl XX, the Lakers arrived at the Garden the Wednesday before the Bears' 46-10 rout. The Lakers had an Eason-esque experience themselves, courtesy of the newest addition to the rivalry, Bill Walton.

With the Celtics playing with a hobbled Kevin McHale and Walton foaming at the mouth to test his reniassance season against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the sixth-man extroadinaire went wild, with 11 points, eight rebounds and seven blocked shots. The Celtics win in a rout, 110-95, and the die was cast for title No. 16, the last for the Celtics until eight months ago.

Dec. 12, 1986: The 1986 season was highlighted by the great winning streak at Boston Garden, which had reached 48 by the time the Lakers arrived for their one-time only appearance in Boston. But in another harbinger of things to come, the Lakers ended the Garden streak with a 117-110 victory. The Lakers would win again in Boston that season, in Game 4 of the Finals on Magic Johnson's "junior junior" sky hook.

The Celtics had technically had their "home" winning streak ended about a week earlier, losing to the Washington Bullets at the Hartford Civic Center (with yours truly in attendance). The Celtics hated making the 100-mile bus ride to Hartford for three games a year, and never more that night in 1986.

Interestingly. about a month before, in an exhibition game the night before Game 1 of the Red Sox-Mets World Series, Bird made that famous over-the-backboard shot against the Rockets at the Civic Center. And he did have the back end of consecutive buzzer beaters in Jnauary, 1985 in Hartford against the Pistons. Couldn't have been that bad.

Dec. 11, 1987: As it happened, this was pretty much the last hurrah for the Bird-Magic rivalry in Boston. A wild back-and-forth affair wasn't decided until the final shot, when Magic heaved a runner from the three-point line on the sideline and banked it in as the buzzer sounded for a 115-114 victory.

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