The Lakers' return to Los Angeles was a triumphant one, after they played two lethargic games at the TD Garden in Boston.
Tonight, the Lakers had their energy back, as well as the stifling defense that was missing in Games Four and Five. The bench also made a rare appearance for the Lakers, at one point outscoring the Boston reserves 24-0.
But it wasn’t quite the blowout that the score would indicate. The Celtics’ low 33 percent shooting wasn’t all due to the Lakers defense. The Celtics blew at least a half-dozen easy layups, as well as some open jump shots.
Rajon Rondo was the main culprit for the Celtics, hitting on only five of 15 shots.
The Lakers also out-rebounded the Celtics 52-38. Part of the reason for that was the injury to Kendrick Perkins. He injured his knee going up for a rebound against Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant in the first quarter and did not return.
The extent of Perkins’ injury has not been disclosed. Bynum had problems of his own, re-injuring his torn meniscus. He spent most of the second half on the bench icing his knee.
So, the question remains: How much will this game affect Game Seven? Other than forcing the final contest in the first place, it may not have much.
Like Kobe Bryant said tonight, “Forget about this game and go onto the next one.”
The Lakers have to push the pace and hurry to set up their defense and not let the Celtics beat them back. They need to run the court like they did tonight, and not lope along like they did in Boston.
Loose balls and tipped balls also had a lot to do with tonight’s game. That is strictly a matter of energy. The team that shows up with the most energy will have the advantage in that aspect.
Bryant had a double-double, Pau Gasol was just one assist short of a triple-double, but Ron Artest and Lamar Odom showed up tonight along with Sasha Vujacic—and that was the key for the Lakers.
So who will show up in Game Seven? Will it be Artest and Odom for the Lakers? Will Gasol play defense like he did tonight, or like he did in Games Four and Five?
Will Rondo find his game like he did at home? In Game Two at Staples Center, Ray Allen shot lights out and put in an NBA Finals-record eight three-pointers. Will he have a repeat performance Thursday night?
Can the Celtics depend on Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett like they did in Game Five? Will the Celtics’ role players—Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, Rasheed Wallace, and Tony Allen—step up like they did in Game Four?
Game Seven in the NBA Finals is a rare and unpredictable event. There is no telling how it will go or who will be the heroes.
You cannot go by the huge scoring differential in Game Six. The Lakers will not be able to roll over any of those extra points towards Thursday's decisive match-up. In Game One, the Lakers scored a 102-89 victory—but the Celtics came back and took Game Two at Staples Center, 103-94.
In their series with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Celtics were embarrassed in Game Three, 124-95 in Boston. But they came right back to take Game Four, 97-87.
The other factor is that Phil Jackson is in uncharted territory. This is the very first NBA Finals Game Seven for Jackson, as well as for Bryant. Doc Rivers, on the other hand, has been there before.
So, throw out the previous scores. Anything can happen now. Missed free throws, turnovers, loose balls, tips, and steals. In the end, the NBA Championship depends on willpower. Whoever plays like there is no tomorrow will win because, in a Game Seven, there is no tomorrow.