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It's too soon to say where these finals will fit in the rivalry's annals. Although the games had been uniformly competitive before the Lakers' blowout win in Game 6, they haven't been spectacularly played, with gritty defense trumping offense in most of the major moments. Ray Allen's historic 3-point shooting barrage in Game 2, the Celtics' gritty victories in games 4 and 5, the Lakers' blowout win in Game 6 -- all will be dwarfed by what happens in the deciding game.
"I guess it's going to be another decade that people look back and see the formation of this rivalry again," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. "The '90s was missed, and the '70s was missed, but the '60s and the '80s were big decades. It seems to skip a decade, doesn't it?"
The Celtics have more experience in seventh games than the Lakers over the past three years, playing in two deciding games in 2008 and two more last year. Boston coach Doc Rivers thinks his club's big-game toughness mostly grew from those high stakes.
"It's the ultimate players' game," said Rivers, a New York guard when the Knicks lost Game 7 of the 1994 finals in Houston. "Unfortunately, I've coached in a lot of them over the last few years -- or fortunately. All the things you've worked on all year, you have to do it, and execute it, and trust and play."
Los Angeles is in just its second Game 7 of the past three seasons, but that's because the Lakers have been better at avoiding trouble while winning 10 playoff series since Pau Gasol joined them in 2008. When faced with elimination Tuesday for the first time in these playoffs, the Lakers responded with determination at least partially born from fear, according to Gasol.
"I think about how bad and how much it would hurt if we don't come out as winners," Gasol said. "I keep that thought in my mind sometimes, just to understand that I have to do everything possible out there to help my team in any way I can. You want to leave everything you have out there, and compete as hard as you've ever competed."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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