Lakers-Celtics Rivalry: The 5 Most Pivotal Moments in the Last 5 Years

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IMarch 9, 2012

Lakers-Celtics Rivalry: The 5 Most Pivotal Moments in the Last 5 Years

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    It will likely take a minor miracle for the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics to renew their historic rivalry in the 2012 NBA Finals, and that little nugget of information gives this weekend's regular season a very anti-climatic feel.

    For the past five seasons the regular season battles between the Lakers and Celtics have been something of a measuring point to gauge each team's readiness for the postseason and a shot at the finals.

    Unfortunately, fans of both teams have probably come to the realization that barring a major personnel change a swift exit from the first or second round of the 2012 NBA playoffs is in the Lakers' and Celtics' not-too-distant future.

    That doesn't mean Sunday's contest in Los Angeles will not conjure up a few wistful moments that will make fans of both teams long for 2009.

    The reason the Lakers-Celtics rivalry may be the best in all of sports is because it defies geography and any conference or divisional history.

    Boston and Los Angeles have established and maintained their rivalry at the highest possible level of basketball, and the shared dominance of each team throughout the years may be the NBA's most enduring legacy.

    Another chapter of this rivalry appears to be coming to an end since neither team will likely reach the finals, and they almost certainly will not get there together.

    I have created a slideshow that marks the five most pivotal moments in the brief resurgence of the Lakers-Celtics rivalry in the last five years, a period in which the teams met in the finals twice in 2008 and 2010.

    Boston won in 2008 and Los Angeles in 2010, and both teams created another set of memories for fans to cherish. I hope you enjoy reliving a few.

5. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett to Boston, Pau Gasol to Los Angeles

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    The Lakers were struggling with mediocrity during the 2006-07 season, and the Celtics were simply horrible as they finished that year with a 24-58 record, good enough for fifth in the Atlantic Division.

    There were not many people discussing the Lakers-Celtic rivalry at the end of the 2006-2007 season but that all changed when Celtics general manager Danny Ainge made the bold move of acquiring Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett to play alongside Paul Pierce in the offseason.

    Boston's new superstar trio was an immediate hit. They helped the Celtics complete one of the most amazing turnarounds in league history as the franchise won 42 more regular season games than the previous year, capping it off by reaching the 2008 NBA Finals.

    The Lakers were a playoff team in 2007, but the addition of Pau Gasol due to the subtraction of Andrew Bynum made the Lakers a contender.

    Gasol was just the type of talented interior player Kobe Bryant and coach Phil Jackson needed in order to return to the finals, and the deal may have never happened if the promising Bynum would not have suffered his first of a few knee injuries.

4. Boston's Comeback Win in Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals

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    Boston had physically manhandled and pushed the Lakers around in wins in Game 1 and 2 of the series, but the Lakers appeared to find new life once the contests shifted to Los Angeles, especially after winning Game 3

    Or so it seemed.

    The Lakers built an impressive lead that grew as large as 20 points, but their second-half collapse and subsequent defeat was just as spectacular—not to mention the 3-1 hole the Lakers fell into in the series.

    Los Angeles would gain a small measure of respect by winning the next game, but not from the Celtics, who expressed disappointment that the series didn't end in Los Angeles.

    Maybe it didn't end officially in Los Angeles, but the series was really lost when the Celtics ripped out the Lakers' hearts in stunning fashion with that comeback in Game 4.

    Shortly after, the Celtics did make it official with a 40-point blowout of the Lakers and their first championship in more than 20 years in the deciding Game 6 of the series.

3. The Arrival of Ron Artest

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    After taking a thorough beating by Boston in the 2008 NBA Finals, the Lakers were forced to address questions about their toughness as a team, particularly Gasol.

    Gasol received heavy criticism for his disappearing act in the 2008 finals, but many Lakers fans seemed to forget that Gasol may have been the only reason the Lakers reached the finals in the first place.

    The Lakers put issues of toughness aside with another finals appearance and victory over the Orlando Magic in 2009, and they may have erased them for good with the acquisition of the player formerly known as Ron Artest in the offseason.

    Artest gave the Lakers an elite defender, but more importantly he gave them a much-needed attitude boost and mean streak, and the Celtics were witness during the team's regular season matchup in Boston in 2009.

    During one memorable sequence, Garnett and Artest got entangled coming up the court, and Garnett shoved Artest in response to their physical collision. Artest responded in kind with a push that sent Garnett sprawling to the floor.

    The push by Artest was a not-so-subtle message that the Lakers would not be bullied by the Celtics any longer, and it served as a precursor to what would be a very physical NBA Finals series.

2. Derek Fisher's Performance in Game 3 of 2010 NBA Finals

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    Derek Fisher didn't do anything spectacular in Game 3 of the 2009-10 NBA Finals, but he may have saved the Lakers with a very timely 16-point performance on 6-of-12 shooting from the field.

    The Lakers were coming off a home loss in Game 2, and a loss in Boston in Game 3 may have proved to be disastrous for their hopes of winning a title.

    Fisher also grabbed three rebounds, all offensive, and virtually played Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo to a stand-still.

    Game 3 was Fisher's highest offensive output of the series, and for the Lakers it couldn't have come at a better time as they were able to steal a 91-84 victory over the Celtics.

1. An Offensive, Offensive Showing in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals

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    Game 7 of the 2009-10 NBA Finals was a tough, gritty contest on the part of both the Lakers and Celtics, and it may have been one of the worst offensive games in NBA Finals history.

    I'm sure defensive purists will argue that Game 7 was a thing of beauty, but it's tough to hear their logic with all the noise from the bricks the Lakers and Celtics were hurling at the basket.

    To be fair, both teams did perform admirably on the defensive end, but defense alone can't explain the Lakers' 32 percent shooting from the field or the Celtics' 40 percent.

    Maybe Kobe, Allen, Pierce and Gasol just all had off nights since those players shot a combined 20-for-59 in Game 7, but it's possible that bad offense had a little bit to do with it.

    Nevertheless, the Lakers managed to hit just enough big shots at the end to win Game 7 and capture the 16th championship in the franchise's history.

    Though Sunday's game will probably not provide any moments like that, fans should still celebrate a storied rivalry that may be nearing the end of its relevance right now.