Lakers-Celtics: There’s magic in the air. … and Magic

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Stuff we’d like to pass along about the Boston Celtics’ visit to Staples Center on Christmas Day — Channel 7, 2 p.m. — to tangle with the Lakers in a game that you can’t help but stop unwrapping presents and stare at the new flat-screen (oops, did we give away the surprise?) to witness (and remember, it’s just a regular-season contest):

== Magic Johnson, making his first appearance for the ESPN/ABC family as a studio anaylst (with a special taped intro planned from Pat Riley, his former coach and once an NBC analyst), comes on with Stuart Scott, Mike Wilbon and Jon Barry (one of these things is not like the other) starting at 11 a.m.

== Mike Breen, Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson call the game on TV, with Lisa Salter running the sidelines. Spero Dedes and Mychael Thompson have it on radio (KLAC-AM 570).

==The rest of the day’s schedule on TV:
= New Orleans at Orlando, 9 a.m., ESPN: (with Dan Shulman, Doris Burke, Nancy Lieberman)
= “NBA Countdown”, 11 a.m., Channel 7
= San Antonio at Phoenix, 11:30 a.m., Channel 7 (with Mike Tirico, Hubie Brown, Heather Cox)
= “NBA Tipoff,” 5 p.m., TNT
= Washington at Cleveland, 5:15 p.m., TNT (with Marv Albert, Mike Fratello and Craig Sager)
= Dallas at Portland, 7:30 p.m., TNT (with Kevin Harlan, Reggie Miller and Cheryl Miller)

== Magic has a one-on-one interview set with Kobe Bryant that will air at halftime of the Lakers-Celtics game (some of which has already played on ESPN’s “SportsCenter”)

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== Magic, talking about games when he played with the Lakers on Christmas Day: “I loved it, and it didn’t matter if we were on the road or not. Just give me the basketball in my hand, and everybody watching me? Oh, man. We were the featured game. I loved it. It’s the best time because there’s only a couple of teams playing. It’s fantastic.”

== Magic on the status of the Celtics and Lakers right now: “The Celtics are playing better on both ends of the court. You can just tell that they really want to repeat. The Lakers have been struggling, big time, on the defensive end, so they’ve got a lot of work to do to come up to where the Celtics are.”

== Magic, on the impact of this game: “The excitement is just like the old days, no question about it…I think this is about the Lakers. The Lakers have to prove to the Celtics and to themselves that they can handle the physical play of the Celtics…That last beating that they took by 39 points, that should have left a sour taste in the Lakers’ mouth…to me, that was an embarrassment for the Lakers. Those guys have got to come out and really prove something to themselves and show the league that they are really ready to challenge the Celtics. Right now, the Celtics believe that the Lakers can’t beat them. It’s all about the Lakers on Christmas day. The Celtics know they’ve got something over the Lakers and when you know that, you come in with confidence. … If you break down the Celtics, they only really have one star defensive player in Kevin Garnett, but they play the best team defense that we’ve probably seen in a long time. Defense has always been in style and it will always be in style if you make a commitment to it if you really want to win the championship.”

== Magic on Paul Pierce vs. Kobe Bryant: “I thought Paul had a great chip on his shoulder to show everybody that he was one of the best players in the league. He dominated the playoffs. I think he took it personal that he and Kobe were going to go head-to-head in the championship series….you want two players like Kobe and Paul, or Kobe and Ray Allen, to want to look forward to the battle…myself and Larry (Bird), we looked forward to the battle. The Celtics and the Lakers, they wanted each other. I think, this Christmas Day, you are going to see both teams want each other. Just like back in the day, we wished we played more than two times during the regular season and these guys wish they played more than two games too.”

== Magic, on Celtics assistant coach Tom Thibodeau’s coaching in the finals: “I don’t understand what these teams are thinking about, when a man comes up with defense like that and he gets passed over for all these other guys. That doesn’t make sense to me. If he doesn’t get one of these jobs, the general managers, they should all get fired.”

== Van Gundy’s thoughts on the game: “The Lakers have more physical talent than the Celtics. They have more options, offensively. They have a better bench, but the Celtics have the trump card right now in that they defend harder on every possession and better on every possession than any team in the league.”

== Also, ESPN Classic has replays today of:
= 9 a.m.: Phoenix vs. San Antonio, 2003 Western Conference First Round, Game 1 (Stephon Marbury hits a three-pointer at the end of overtime to give the Suns the victory)
= 11 a.m.: Boston at Lakers, 1984 NBA Finals, Game 4 (Larry Bird and Kevin McHale lead the Celtics to an overtime win)
= 1 p.m.: Boston at Lakers, 1985 NBA Finals, Game 4 (Dennis Johnson sinks a jumper to even the series at 2-2 for the Celtics)
= 3 p.m.: Lakers at Boston, 1987 NBA Finals, Game 4 (Magic Johnson hits the winning shot, as the Lakers won 107-106).

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