For C's, last year never happened

LOS ANGELES -- Ray Allen didn't want to watch. Kevin Garnett couldn't. The Celtics' title defense had been stopped in the second round, and if the next NBA champion wasn't going to be them, it didn't matter who it was.

"I'm just so pro me and the team I play on," Allen said, when asked why he didn't watch the Lakers-Magic Finals last season. "So once it comes down to the two teams [in the Finals], I know somebody is going to win it. My curiosity never peaks.

"When we lost, it was probably a good time for me to get rest. I hadn't been with my kids all year, so my TV was on Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel."

Garnett said he didn't catch the Lakers' triumph either.

"I didn't watch any of the Finals last year. I was under the knife," he said, referring to the knee surgery he had after last season.

The Lakers and Celtics have played four times in the regular season since Boston dismantled L.A. in the 2008 Finals. Players on both sides have grown and evolved. Role players have changed addresses. The Lakers have added another Larry O'Brien Trophy to their mantle.

But as far as the Celtics are concerned, this series will come down to the same dynamic as the last time these teams played for the title:

"They play one way and we play a different way," Allen said. "That's what's beautiful about the Finals, because you get a contrast of the two styles. It's about who can take away that team's strengths and force that team to play the way you want them to play."

So yes, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins have grown and matured as players. Ron Artest has given the Lakers a more formidable perimeter defender than they had in '08, Andrew Bynum is healthier, and Pau Gasol has added 15 pounds of muscle.

But the Celtics aren't planning to change their style of play or the playbook for beating the Lakers that worked two years ago.

"No, we have our game plan," Allen said. "As players, we've got some tough guys on this team and you just play how you play."

The challenge will be dictating the pace and tenor of the series as they did so forcefully the last time around.

Lakers coach Phil Jackson lobbed the first grenade in what's likely to be an interesting war of words off the court, saying the Celtics have a "smackdown mentality" and singling out an incident between Garnett and Orlando's Dwight Howard during the Eastern Conference finals.

"He [Garnett] was smacking Howard's arm and it was finally called for an offensive foul," Jackson said at Monday's practice. "I mean, that's not our kind of team. We don't go out there to smack people around. We're a more resilient ballclub. We try to stay strong and play hard."

Asked to respond to Jackson's remark, Garnett first said, "Next question," before answering a more general question about his physical play.

"I think part of defense is being physical," Garnett said. "Definitely being a 5 [center], you're playing physical guys like Shaq, Dwight Howard, Bynum; you've got to hold your ground. You've got to find some way to endure the best way you see fit."

When Garnett was asked again about Jackson's comments, he said, "I think nothing of it. It's Phil playing mind games, it's all good."

It should be noted that Garnett made a point of saying that "L.A. is the champs. They're the defending champs ... that's the motivation. The fact it is the Finals, the fact that we're back here and playing the champs, it's what it is."

But it was fairly clear the Celtics were viewing this as a rematch from 2008, rather than an entirely new series.

There's history there, recent history. Last year happened, the Lakers won, but this rivalry is picking back up where it left off two years ago.

"We've got two franchises that never really like each other ... because they're always playing for the ultimate prize," Celtics forward Paul Pierce said.

"I really don't have no friends on the Lakers. I don't know who on this Boston team does. So it's going to be interesting. I'm not going to say it's going to come to blows, but it's definitely going to get fiery and it's going to get real competitive."

Ramona Shelburne is a writer and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.