The NBA Finals always has those players that show up when they're needed the most. They provide that spark for their team or they take it upon themselves to make sure their team goes on to victory.
Saying that, you would think I'm talking about a guy like Kobe Bryant. Instead, I'm talking about two different guys that are keys for the Lakers to win their 17th championship.
The two I'm referring to are Pau Gasol and Derek Fisher.
Sure, we can sit here all day and talk about how Kobe Bryant is the biggest key for the Lakers, and while that may be true, if it wasn't for Derek Fisher the Lakers would be staring at a two-games-to-one deficit heading in to Game Four on Thursday night.
Instead, it's the Lakers that are currently in the driver's seat, and they are the ones that have the two-to-one advantage.
Fisher took the Lakers on his back and gave a tremendous fourth-quarter effort to put his team over the top in a 91-84 Game Three victory.
This isn't the first time Fisher has come up huge for the Lakers. He's been part of three NBA championships—all with the Lakers, all with Kobe Bryant. He's hit clutch threes, he's had key steals, and he's come up with key defensive stops. He does whatever is needed at the exact right time.
So, headed in to Game Four in Boston, the Lakers once again will need their veteran point guard to have another good outing if they're going to really put this series out of reach. But he's not the only one that is a key to putting this series away.
Pau Gasol needs to come up bigger than he ever has before.
Gasol was part of the 2009 NBA Championship team, and he was also on the team when the Boston Celtics were the ones celebrating. He knows what it takes to win and he also knows what it feels like to watch someone else hoisting the trophy.
Through the first two games, Gasol averaged 24 points and 11 rebounds per game. In Game Three, while the Lakers came out on top, Gasol had his worst performance thus far, scoring just 13 points and grabbing 10 rebounds while allowing Kevin Garnett to go off for 25 points and looking like he did while he was in Minnesota.
Both Gasol and Fisher have to know and realize that they won't be able to win without contributions from both of them.
Kobe Bryant cannot do this on his own.
While we can sit here and talk about Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, and Jordan Farmar, Gasol and Fisher are the two catalysts that can turn a game around in a heartbeat. Not necessarily with a big shot but it could be keeping Kevin Garnett off the boards or forcing Ray Allen into another 0-for-13 night.
It's the little things that that end up meaning the most when the final buzzer sounds.
The Lakers are fully capable of winning another NBA championship. But without both Derek Fisher and Pau Gasol doing what they do, the Lakers might end up watching Boston celebrate for the second time in three years.
The Lakers have experienced that once, and you can bet they don't want to experience that again.
You can bet on the fact that the Celtics do not want to lose again at home and you can bet that they don't want the Lakers going back to Los Angeles only needing one win for the NBA championship.
It seems as if Paul Pierce opened his mouth a little too quick, though to his credit (if there is any) he didn't realize that the microphones would pick up what he said. After the Celtics game two win in Los Angeles, Pierce was caught saying that they were not coming back to LA.
There's an unwritten rule that you don't give the other team bulletin board material because it will come back to bite you in the back side. Unfortunately for Pierce and the Celtics, it did just that in Game Three on their home floor.
Game Four will go to who wants it more, and there will be key players for both teams. If the Lakers take Game Four, they can afford to lose Game Five and win the NBA title on their home floor in Los Angeles.
If Boston takes Game Four, it will be a heavyweight fight for Game Five because that will be the pivotal game for both teams.
One thing is for sure: These are the right two teams to battle for the NBA championship. They've had this battle several times over both team's history, so it's only fitting that it comes down to these two teams once more.