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Celtics savor chance to win title in L.A.

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McClatchy Tribune
June 15, 2010
— As the legend goes, Bill Russell walked into the L.A. Forum for Game 7 of the 1969 NBA Finals and looked above him. Thousands of balloons were suspended over the court by netting in an optimistic arrangement that was meant to shower the court when the Lakers won the championship.

Russell wasn’t having it.


Of the 17 NBA titles owned by the Celtics, that one might be their most satisfying because of the opponent and the venue. If Boston can get one win in either of the next two games at Staples Center, that’ll be two rings to savor.


“Yeah, definitely,” said Rajon Rondo, who continues to give the Lakers fits as a matchup problem. “It would be something special because it is the Lakers, the history that these two franchises have had in the past couple of years and almost a century. It would be great to get a win against the Lakers.”


It’s actually more like a half century, but at 24 years old, you can’t expect Rondo to have any historical perspective on this. What matters to him and the rest of his team is that they know they can beat the Lakers. They know from the experience in 2008, when they brought a 3-2 series lead back to the Garden for Game 6 and rolled to a dominant 131-92 win.


At this point, do they own a mental edge?


“Only until we win the fourth game can I answer that question,” Rondo said. “It’s still anybody’s series. They’re the defending champions. I’m sure they’re going to come out and fight hard, so it’s not over. This series is not over yet.”


Doc Rivers recalled the 1994 Finals when he was with the Knicks, who took a 3-2 lead to Houston for Games 6 and 7 and failed to finish the job.


“I thought about that the other day when John Starks called me and reminded me of that,” said Rivers, who did not play in the playoffs that season because of a knee injury. “We had our opportunities, obviously, in Games 6 and 7,” Rivers said of that series, in which Hakeem Olajuwon blocked Starks’ potential game-winner in Game 6. Then in Game 7, Starks shot a nightmarish 2-for-18. “You know, that’s a bitter memory for me. I was injured and sitting on the bench.”


Rivers called it “a learning experience” for him, but said it isn’t something he can translate to his players.


“Hell, half of them are too young to remember,” he said, “and half of them probably don’t care.”


But when you put on the green, you care about winning titles and even more about winning them against the Lakers, who are currently two championships behind the Celtics for the most in NBA history.


For Paul Pierce, who is from Los Angeles, it’s also an opportunity to win a title in his hometown. “I’m not going to try to jinx it right now,” Pierce said. “We’ve got to win one game, that’s the goal. But it would be amazing if we get it done.”



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