LOS ANGELES - The Lakers and Celtics.
L.A. and Boston.
There is so much rich history, so much hatred and yet so much respect for what these teams have accomplished.
Here they go again, the Lakers and Celtics, L.A. and Boston, about to add another installment to their juicy rivalry.
They have piqued the interest of many who wonder how the drama will unfold.
The Lakers reached the NBA Finals by defeating the Phoenix Suns in six games in the Western Conference finals.
The Celtics reached the Finals by defeating the Orlando Magic in six games in the Eastern Conference finals.
Game 1 is Thursday night at the Staples Center.
"This is going to be a good series from start to finish," an NBA scout said. "There are stories within the stories. It's going to be an exciting series. There's going to be drama."
The Lakers and Celtics have won 32 NBA championships - the Lakers 15, the Celtics 17.
The last time the teams met in the NBA Finals in 2008, Boston defeated Los Angeles in six games.
The Lakers won the championship last season, defeating Orlando in six games.
"It's going to be very good. It's going to be like the series they had two years ago," said former Laker Ron Harper, who won two of his five championship rings with L.A. "If Andrew Bynum can play halfway good, the Lakers should be OK.
"Lamar [Odom] is starting to play real well. If he keeps playing like that, it's going to be a good series. He's going to have to play against KG [Kevin Garnett]. Ron Artest should be able to do a good job on Paul Pierce."
Harper said the Celtics don't score a lot of points, but they do play hard-nosed defense.
"The Lakers have got to pound the ball inside and see if Pau [Gasol] can score and if Lamar can score," Harper said. "Pau is going to get hit from the first play of the game until the end. He has to keep playing hard."
Doug Collins, the TNT analyst who will become coach of the 76ers for the 2010-11 season, predicted that the series will be competitive and intense.
"It's going to be grind-it-out games," Collins said after TNT's broadcast of the Lakers-Suns game Saturday night. "Every possession, every basket is going to be earned. Some great matchups. . . . I really look forward to it."
The Lakers and Celtics have met 11 times in the Finals, with Boston holding a 9-2 advantage.
Because there is so much history between the Lakers and Celtics, Odom was asked if this rivalry was as deep as the one between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.
"It's almost as deep, as far as basketball is concerned," said Odom, a Yankees fan. "You're talking about as far as getting to the top and playing for it all. It's there like the Yankees and Red Sox. It's the same thing. It's just that the Lakers and Celtics are playing for the championship."