The Boston Celtics vs Los Angeles Lakers has been the biggest rivalry in the NBA for decades. While the intensity has been lost in recent years, they had a lot of fiery matchups till the late 2000s.
The Lakers lost the 2008 NBA Finals to the Celtics, only to beat them in a rematch two years later. ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan recently spoke about how former Lakers coach Phil Jackson used that 2008 defeat to fuel them for the 2010 win. She said:
“In 2008, when they were taking that beating, remember Phil was standing with his arms folded? He didn’t do anything, he didn’t change anything. He claims years later to me he knew they couldn’t win that series. And he wanted them to feel the humiliation of it, and he wanted to use it for the next two years to motivate them to go back to the Finals and beat the Celtics again. It happened in 2010. He claims all he had to do was mention that.”
The 2008 Finals was a painful defeat for the Lakers. Boston started the series well, winning the first two games. The Lakers pulled one back, winning Game 3, but conceded Game 4. They somehow managed a narrow victory in Game 5, which increased hopes for a comeback. But they got crushed in Game 6 131-92, as the Celtics cruised to the title.
The defeat also hurt because it gave the Celtics their 17th title, two more than the Lakers’ total of 14. So Jackson used all this humiliation and rage to fuel them for revenge in the upcoming seasons.
The Lakers went on to win the 2009 title without getting their rematch. They beat the Magic in the Finals, who had knocked out the Celtics in the second round. But when they faced the Celtics in 2010, the Lakers knew it was all on the line. They almost let it slip, going down 2-3. But they were at their defensive best and thrashed them with a 22 point win. Game 7 was as intense as it could get. Both defenses were at their best in this cagey encounter.
The Lakers had a slender three-point lead with just over a minute left to play. After being double-teamed, Kobe Bryant had a bailout pass to Ron Artest, who buried it from outside. Later it was clutch free throws from Kobe and Sasha Vujacic that sealed the win for them. It was an iconic win, and coach Jackson deserves a lot of credit for it.
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