2010 NBA Finals: Can Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol Erase the Demons of 2008?

It's hard to argue the success of the Los Angeles Lakers since the franchise acquired Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008, and one of the biggest reasons was the immediate chemistry between Gasol and Kobe Bryant.

Gasol was the perfect complement to Bryant through his on-court intelligence, wonderful array of skills, and willingness to accept a back seat to Bryant, who was now the unquestioned leader of the Lakers' team.

For the first time since Shaquille O'Neal roamed the paint, the Lakers had a legitimate seven-foot presence in Gasol, who was arguably as skilled as any Lakers' big man in the past 20 years.

Gasol has helped Los Angeles clinch three consecutive Western Conference championships, one NBA title, and a chance for a second once the NBA Finals start on Thursday.

The Boston Celtics stand in the way of a Lakers' repeat, and the irony of the situation is hard to miss, considering the Celtics serve as a constant reminder of one of the lowest points in the history of the Lakers' franchise.

Los Angeles could possibly be competing for a third consecutive championship if not for the humbling, humiliating six-game defeat suffered at the hands of the Celtics in the 2008 NBA Finals.

That series loss exposed some hard truths about the Lakers, and called into question the toughness and desire of Bryant and Gasol in the face of one of the more physical Finals series in recent history.

At least the Celtics were physical, because the series came to be defined by the inability of the Lakers to prevent Boston from imposing their will, and their 39-point loss in the deciding Game Six was a signature moment.

The Lakers earned the label of being "soft" as they wilted under the pressure of the Celtics' physical assault. No one may have been more targeted than Gasol, who spent the majority of the series being pushed around.

Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis, Kendrick Perk...

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