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Match Point

WHEN I look back at nearly five decades of existence, the 1980s holds a special place. First, the music. To my fellow 40+ year-olds, no decade produced a better mix of soul and sound than the ‘80s. Even my daughter, now 21, thinks so. Spandau Ballet, a-ha, Simply Red, Rick Astley, Dire Straits, ABC, Pet Shop Boys, Hall and Oates, Level 42.

I also remember the ‘80s for the Celtics and Lakers. Green vs. Gold. Boston Garden vs. The Forum. Dennis Johnson, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish against James Worthy, Jamaal Wilkes and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Battle of coaches between the cerebral K.C. Jones vs. the slick Pat Riley.

The Lakers won in 1980, 1982, 1985 and 1988. In between, the Celtics won in 1981, 1984 and 1986. No team won back-to-back. When Magic Johnson won the MVP Finals plum, the following year Larry Bird would snatch the crown. It was a seesaw, give-and-take contest.

The Lakers - Celtics duel is one of sport’s most celebrated. The Celtics have the edge with 17 NBA crowns and the Lakers have 16. The next two teams? The Bulls and the Warriors have won only six apiece.

With the rivalry, if you think their head-to-head scoreline was close, it’s not. They’ve met in the NBA Finals a dozen times and the Lakers have won only thrice. From their first meeting in 1959 until 1984, the Celtics triumphed eight straight times. After that, LA won 3 out of 4. In their last meeting in 2010, the Kobe Bryant-led Lakers beat Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett in Game 7.

All this, of course, is past. But the past has resurrected. Today, the Lakers are unstoppable. If you watched yesterday’s game against the Denver Nuggets, then you understand the word “Domination.” Or how about changing it to LA-Nation.

Rondo has resurrected. He lobs the ball from behind the backboard and makes the shot. He’s 34 years old. How about 35-year-old LeBron James tossing the ball to Dwight Howard, 34, for an alley-oop dunk? Anthony Davis scores 37 and pulls down 10 rebounds.

The Lakers are a) too fast in transition; b) too strong defensively; c) have two of the league’s best (AD and LBJ); d) they have Playoff Rondo; and e) they have Howard, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year, blocking shots and drawing fouls from Nikola Jokic; and Howard standing mid-court as the Nuggets players huddled, pestering and messing them up mentally.

I’d like to add an f) Full of confidence. The Lakers feel invincible. And thanks to the early home return of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the Lakers are -176 betting favorites to win the NBA crown (Miami is at +400, Boston +550 and Denver +900).

Which brings me to Boston: I hope Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker make a comeback and defeat Miami.

Lakers vs. Celtics. In the 74-year history of the NBA, the two winningest squads have cornered 33 titles—or 45 percent of all victories.

My ‘80s tune for their dominance?

Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough.”


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