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NBA predictions

Saturday, February 19, 2011; 10:11 PM

The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics will meet in the NBA Finals for the third time in four years and 13th time overall and the stakes perhaps couldn't be higher. The Celtics have been sitting on 17 titles since 2008, but the Lakers have won the past two to get to 16.

The Lakers have appeared uninterested for much of the season, struggling to record quality wins against the league's best and getting upset by some of the worst. But the Lakers still have Phil Jackson, bookend 7-footers Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, and Kobe Bryant, who might be slipping with age and injury but continues to play at an elite level.

The Lakers, though, have a serious challenger in San Antonio, where Tim Duncan is trying to match Bryant with five championship rings by riding Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to his first title since 2007.

Miami started a possible revolution this summer when it used free agency to assemble an NBA power by adding LeBron James and Chris Bosh to a team already led by Dwyane Wade. The Heat has been good, but not nearly as unbeatable as many expected, and it has yet to beat Boston in three tries.

Derrick Rose is lifting Chicago back to relevance, and Orlando had a startling shakeup to get Dwight Howard more help, but the Celtics believe that they would've won a second title in three years last season if Kendrick Perkins hadn't been injured in Game 6 in Los Angeles.

With Shaquille O'Neal in tow, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo are coming to finish the job with what might be their last serious run.

l Los Angeles Lakers over San Antonio Spurs in Western Conference Finals

l Boston Celtics over Miami Heat in Eastern Conference Finals

l Boston Celtics over Los Angeles Lakers in NBA Finals

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