Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is ready for the Celtics
Reporting from Phoenix -- Throughout his career, Kobe Bryant has never been one to forget a slight, a doubter or an opponent who has defeated him and his Lakers.
Now that Bryant and the Lakers are about to face the Celtics in the NBA Finals, the same Boston team that defeated Los Angeles in Game 6 of the 2008 Finals by an embarrassing 39 points to win the championship, he didn’t make this out to be revenge.
The Lakers had just defeated the Phoenix Suns, 111-103, Saturday night to win the Western Conference finals in six games and Bryant was saying after the game that he “didn’t give a damn” who the Lakers played in the Finals.
Bryant had just scored 37 points, 11 in the fourth quarter, two right in front of Suns Coach Alvin Gentry that brought about a funny exchange between the two, and he was insisting playing the Celtics for the championship was not about revenge.
Game 1 is Thursday night at Staples Center.
“The challenge is to win the championship,” Bryant said. “The Celtics are in the way. They feel the same way about us. Obviously this is a matchup that’s very easy to talk about. There’s a lot of things that people can write about and talk about.
“It’s a sexy matchup. We’re looking forward to this challenge, looking forward to the test. When the ball goes up, we’ll be ready to go.”
The Lakers won the championship last season, defeating the Orlando Magic in five games.
This will be the Lakers’ third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals, 31st time in franchise history.
The Celtics are going to the NBA Finals for the 21st time.
They have won 17 NBA championships, the Lakers 15.
The Lakers and Celtics have met in the Finals 11 times, with the Celtics winning nine of them, including 2008.
“Well, you’re just looking forward to the challenge of it,” Bryant said. “The last time we played them, it was a great learning experience for us. It taught us what it takes to be a champion. The defensive intensity that they played with, the tenacity that they played with, we learned a great deal in that series.”
Bryant made 12 of 25 shots against the Suns Saturday night, three of seven in the fourth quarter.
When the Suns cut the Lakers once-18-point lead to three points in the fourth, Bryant made a 21-foot jumper with Grant Hill in his face.
“I just had to create a little bit of space and raise up,” Bryant said. “I had a good look. It looks like a much tougher shot than it is. I got a good look, got my legs underneath me and was able to knock it down.”
When Bryant made a 23-foot jumper with Hill in his face again, giving the Lakers a 107-100 lead with 35.2 seconds left, Bryant and Gentry had a nice little exchange.
“I said ‘Good defense’ to Grant,” Gentry said. “He [Bryant] said, ‘Not quite good enough.’”
“After I knocked down the shot, he just turned and uttered something,” Bryant said, offering a swear word. “Something to that effect, which made me smile.”
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