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NBA: Lakers carry harsh lessons against Celts

Boston fans rocked their bus in '08. This time, they feel ready to rock.

LOS ANGELES - Although the Los Angeles Lakers' Andrew Bynum didn't play in the 2008 NBA Finals, he remembers how it all ended.

Boston Celtics fans celebrated their clinching victory by throwing rocks and other projectiles at the Lakers' departing bus, also rocking it back and forth.

"I only saw a couple of games, and it was crazy - the energy, the fans," said Bynum, who was out for the season with an injured kneecap. "That bus ride back to the hotel, it wasn't the greatest."

Bynum kept that memory close for the last two years, and so did most of his teammates. Although the Lakers' roster is remarkably similar to the group that lost to Boston two years ago, Bynum sees two big reasons Los Angeles might have a better shot to do the rocking this time.

Ron Artest and Bynum say they hope to play major defensive roles in the Lakers' NBA Finals rematch with the Celtics, starting Thursday night at Staples Center.

Artest is the Lakers' only newcomer this season, while Bynum has postponed surgery on his right knee to participate in the playoff run.

Unlike Kobe Bryant, who professes no special interest in a Celtics rematch, Bynum is thrilled this run is ending with Boston.

"It's a great opportunity for us to get one back," Bynum said. "You never want to let something like that sit. I know it means a great deal [historically], but I'm more concerned about my own history."

Artest's preparation doesn't include much education on the history of this matchup - only a refresher tutorial on the offensive habits of Paul Pierce and the Celtics' forwards.

"I'm not a student," Artest said. "I just love the game. I'm not really familiar with the rivalry. I'm sure there's a lot of history, but I can't really tell you any details about it."

Artest replaced Trevor Ariza on the Lakers' roster last summer, filling the role as their defensive stopper.

Ariza also was absent from the 2008 Finals with an injury. Los Angeles subsequently was carved up by Pierce, who averaged 21.8 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.5 rebounds against his hometown team while earning the series MVP award.

Although Artest says it takes an entire team to shut down Boston's array of offensive talent, Lakers coach Phil Jackson is grateful to have a clear-cut matchup for Artest, who performed well against NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City in the first round.

"It's a huge difference for us," Jackson said. "That's a matchup that was difficult for us in the [2008] series."

"I thought that we were really green when we came into the playoffs in 2008," Jackson said. ". . . This team is more mature now, and experienced."

Gasol won't join Spain

Lakers center Pau Gasol said he would not help Spain defend its title at the world basketball championships because doctors say he needs a rest.

Gasol said "present circumstances advise against my participation" in the championship in Turkey from Aug. 29 to Sept. 12.

In a statement on his website on Tuesday, Gasol said that after a grueling NBA season in which he sustained the first two major muscle injuries of his career, "my body is calling for a temporary relief."

Gasol led Spain past Greece in the 2006 final in Japan.