After Long Layoff, Celtics and Lakers Finally Set to Take Court in Game 1 of NBA Finals

After Long Layoff, Celtics and Lakers Finally Set to Take Court in Game 1 of NBA Finals Yet again, the Celtics are the underdogs. But by now, they're used to it.

No one thought they'd beat the Cavaliers in Round 2 of these playoffs,
but they did. No one thought they'd beat the Magic in the East finals,
but they did that, too. The C's are once again facing legions of
doubters as they tip off Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles
Lakers, but by now, they have plenty of practice silencing doubters.

This is a rematch of the 2008 Finals, and no one thought the Celtics
would win that series, either. We all know how that one turned out.

When and Where

Celtics at Lakers
Thursday, June 3, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Staples Center, Los Angeles, Calif.

Head to Head

The Celtics earned a 1-1 split in their two regular-season games with
the Lakers, but you can't put a big enough asterisk on the one win. The
Celtics won 87-86 at the Staples Center on Feb. 18, but they managed
just 11 points in the fourth quarter, and Kobe Bryant didn't even play.
The C's did not beat L.A. this season at full strength. Game 1 will
be a big test for them.

Key Matchup

Rajon Rondo vs. Derek Fisher
You've got to hand it to the Lakers — they have size. But in this
matchup, the Celtics can win with speed, and Rondo is the key to that.
The Celtics' young point guard can take over this game by outrunning,
outworking and flat-out outplaying the aging Fisher. But if Fisher
switches onto Ray Allen, then Rondo will be presented with a real
challenge: Kobe. Either way, Rondo is the key — either he'll be asked
to milk his advantage over Fisher, or he'll have to overcome the
stifling defense of the Black Mamba.

Starting Lineups

Celtics
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Paul Pierce
Power forward: Kevin Garnett
Center: Kendrick Perkins

Lakers

Point guard: Derek Fisher
Shooting guard: Kobe Bryant
Small forward: Ron Artest
Power forward: Pau Gasol
Center: Andrew Bynum

Stat Sheet

Celtics

  • Kevin Garnett has career postseason averages of 20.4 points, 11.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.
  • Rasheed Wallace has played 5,695 playoff minutes in his career,
    fourth-most among active players. Only Shaquille O'Neal, Kobe Bryant
    and Tim Duncan have played more.
  • Rajon Rondo leads the NBA this postseason in assists (170) and steals (35).

Lakers

  • Kobe Bryant has career postseason averages of 25.4 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game.
  • Andrew Bynum is shooting 57.0 percent from the field this postseason, the highest clip of any player in this series.
  • Pau Gasol averages 17.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game against Boston.

Black and Blue

Celtics

  • Marquis Daniels is out with a concussion.
  • Rasheed Wallace kept things light in practice this week due to back spasms, but he's expected to play in Game 1.
  • Rajon Rondo has been slowed a bit by muscle spasms and sat out parts of
    Monday's practice back in Boston, but he, too, is expected to play.

Lakers

  • Andrew Bynum had his right knee drained by team doctors in Los Angeles
    on Monday morning. He expects to play, but his minutes may be a little
    bit limited.

Outlook

If you want to go down in history as an all-time great Celtic, you need
to win multiple titles. Kevin Garnett knows that, Ray Allen knows it,
and Paul Pierce most definitely knows it. But before the Celtics can
think about holding up the Larry O'Brien Trophy, they've got to focus
on bringing their best game to these NBA Finals. The Celtics will have
to contain Kobe Bryant for seven games, and they'll have to stand up to
a horde of able-bodied big men in purple and gold. The C's have a tall
task ahead of them, and it starts with Game 1 at the Staples Center.

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