The Boston Celtics will look to win their second championship in three years on the Lakers' home court Tuesday night. A Game Six win would be their their third straight after trailing Los Angeles 2-1 in the best of seven series. The Lakers will look to bounce back from a horrendous defensive effort and force a Game Seven.
Andrew Bynum's health has been a story throughout the playoffs. Let the record show that he has demonstrated considerable heart.
It's clear that he has been playing through pain for quite sometime now. His determination has gone a long way to prove that these Lakers are not the same team from 2008 (Bynum missed the entire 2008 playoffs). The 2010 Lakers can play physically and are driven.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, Andrew Bynum needs to be more than an inspirational story.
It is not enough for him simply to play, he needs to be a factor. Despite facing a substantial height disadvantage, the Boston Celtics have made their living in the paint. Rajon Rondo is always a threat to drive. Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis, and Rasheed Wallace have all gotten easy layups. Boston's offensive success is as much about the Lakers' defense as it is their ability to score.
Bynum is a liability to Los Angeles when he is not mobile. Defense is a team effort in basketball. When Rondo drives, it falls on the big men to step up and take away the layup. When Garnett gets the ball in the paint, Gasol needs help.
It is up to Andrew Bynum to block shots, take away the lane, and provide help defense. If his knee is preventing him from doing these essential duties, he is hurting his team.
I'm not trying to take anything away from Boston's big men. They have played exceptionally well and shown a desire to win. However, it has been far too easy for them. There is no reason why Los Angeles shouldn't dominate the paint.
With two seven-footers (Bynum being one) in the starting lineup, life should be hell for Garnett, Perkins, Davis, and Wallace. Every shot should be contested. In order for that to happen, the Lakers need a mobile Bynum. Their defense lost Game Five and they cannot afford a repeat performance.
Aside from Bynum's health, here is what will affect the outcome of Game Six:
Keys for the Lakers:
1. The Lakers need a third scoring option. I think it is safe to assume that Pau Gasol will play better than he did in Game Five. That being said, the Lakers have only two sure things on offense: Gasol and Kobe.
Odom can get to the basket, but he has lacked consistency this series. Fisher came up huge in Game Three, but he hasn't made a huge impact since. Bynum could be the answer; he was certainly effective early in Game Five. There are plenty of potential scoring threats on Los Angeles. Game Six will come down to them capitalizing on their ability.
2. Ron Artest has been a scorer in the past but has been nonexistent on the offensive end during the Finals. Boston allows him to have a wide open three-pointer every time down the floor. Rather than make them regret leaving him so open, he misses shot after shot.
Phil Jackson has to make an adjustment. Why not play Artest closer to the basket? Or run plays that allow him to cut towards the hoop? There have been times when Artest has successfully driven and converted layups.
An efficient scoring night from Ron-Ron would be a huge boost for the Lakers.
Keys for the Celtics:
1. To this point in the series, the Celtics have done an excellent job of pushing the ball up the court. Rajon Rondo has the potential to be a one-man fast break every time he grabs a board.
It's ironic that during their series against Orlando, people speculated that Boston was getting old and lethargic. The Celtics have shut up their critics and have looked to be the more athletic team this series. They have had success running the ball and will continue to do so until the Lakers stop them.
Stopping the break is no easy task against a revitalized Celtics team.
2. Boston has the Lakers in a corner. Odds are that everyone playing for Los Angeles will show up. If the Celtics are going to win, they need their stars to play well.
Game Five showed how effective Boston is when their big three play to their ability. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce are so important to their offense. If Rondo can distribute the ball, it could be another tough night for the Lakers on defense.
3. The Celtics have overcome the length of the Los Angeles Lakers and have successfully rebounded the ball. For Boston to win the title, they will have to out-hustle their opponent and dominate the glass.
Rajon Rondo can make the battle easier by helping out his big men. He is an excellent point guard with a world class all-around game. The Lakers have size, but if the Celtics have more desire, they could very well end up being world champions.