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First look

Times Staff Writer

LAKERS (57-25, 12-3 in playoffs)

vs. CELTICS (66-16, 12-8 in playoffs)

Season series: Celtics, 2-0

Buzz: You wanted them, you got them.

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The Dream Matchup became a reality Friday when the Celtics won in Detroit to take the Eastern Conference finals, 4-2, sending them into an NBA Finals rematch with the Lakers, 21 years later.

Happily for the Lakers, this is not the Celtics team that soundly beat them twice this season.

We don’t really know who the Celtics are after 20 games (to the Lakers’ 15) this postseason, but they’re not the team that dominated the regular season, winning 66 games -- nine more than the Lakers.

The Celtics are 12-8 in their marathon postseason after going seven games against 37-win Atlanta in the first round and seven more against Cleveland in the second.

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As soon as the playoffs started, teams began dropping off the Celtics’ 22-year-old point guard Rajon Rondo, daring him to beat them and jamming up Boston’s offense.

In the first round, the Celtics struggled against the younger, more athletic Hawks.

In the second round, the Cavaliers slowed the pace and the Celtics’ offense all but disappeared, averaging only 84 points.

Paul Pierce slumped in that series, averaging 16 points -- until Game 7 when he broke out for 41.

Ray Allen turned into someone else, averaging 9.3 points against Cleveland with his slump extending against the Pistons -- until he broke out with 46 points in Games 5 and 6.

Happily for the Celtics, they have five days off after Coach Doc Rivers kept his starters on the floor for 398 of the 480 minutes in Games 5 and 6.

The Celtics will also have home-court advantage in the Finals’ 2-3-2 format.

Unhappily for the Celtics, the Lakers are younger, deeper and better rested.

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The Lakers won the 1987 Finals in six games.

Of course, that was the 10th time the teams had met in the Finals and, as Celtics owner Wycliffe Grousbeck said after Friday’s win in Detroit, “We’re 8-2.”

So it has already started.

--

SCHEDULE

Thursday

at Boston, 6 p.m.

June 8

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at Boston, 6 p.m.

June 10

vs. Boston, 6 p.m.

June 12

vs. Boston, 6 p.m.

June 15 *

vs. Boston, 6 p.m.

June 17 *

at Boston, 6 p.m.

June 19 *

at Boston, 6 p.m.

--

All times Pacific; * if necessary


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