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Lakers vs. Celtics Game 6: Kobe Bryant's Teammates Set the Stage for Game 7

Hadarii JonesSenior Writer IJune 16, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 15:  Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers is taken out of the game in the fourth quarter in Game Six of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Boston Celtics at Staples Center on June 15, 2010 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Kobe Bryant was asked how the Los Angeles Lakers would prepare for game seven of the 2010 NBA Finals after the Lakers' dominating 89-67 victory over the Boston Celtics in game six, and his response was classic.

Bryant coolly responded by saying, "I ain't tripping", which was much different from his words questioning the efforts of his teammates after the Lakers' loss in game five.

Maybe Bryant's not tripping because if Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest and the Lakers' reserves can match their performance from game six, Los Angeles could very well capture their second consecutive NBA Championship.

The Lakers extended their season because of Gasol's near triple double of 17 points, 13 rebounds, and nine assists and they won because of Artest's 15 points in his latest reclamation project.

But most importantly, the Lakers won because of suffocating defense which limited Boston to 33 percent shooting from the field and 67 points—the second lowest point total in NBA Finals history.

Los Angeles' 52-39 rebounding advantage didn't hurt either and now the Lakers have a very different look going into game seven, the first in Bryant's NBA Finals' career.

Some people had very vocally declared the Lakers' season over after their dismal showing in game five, but now the momentum has once again shifted in Los Angeles' favor.

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The series has turned into the epic battle of style and wills that everyone was predicting and Boston may have to face the prospects of a game seven showdown without their starting center.

Kendrick Perkins injured his knee seven minutes into game six; and if he is unable to play on Thursday, the Celtics will be forced to rely on seldom used players like Shelden Williams and Marquis Daniels.

I'm not sure if Perkins would have made much difference in this game because the Lakers responded to Bryant's criticism by dominating game six from beginning to end.

Gasol didn't become an enforcer in the post, but he did force Boston's big men to adjust to his game rather than letting the Celtics dictate the manner of his play.

Likewise, Artest will never be confused as a dominant offensive threat, but he did show more confidence in his shot and his defensive lapses from game five all but disappeared.

Each Boston starter, with the exception of Perkins, managed to score in double figures in game six, but the Lakers made them work hard for each point and the previously quiet Lakers reserves completely turned the tables on the Celtics.

Boston's bench play had been a signature of their past two victories, but the Lakers' reserves managed to out score the Celtics' 25-13 with most of the 13 coming well after the game had been decided.

So now coach Phil Jackson joins Bryant in his first ever game seven in a NBA Finals series where the opportunity to create another piece of history and legend is there for the taking.

Bryant's 26 points led all scorers and he managed to grab 11 rebounds to boot. His chance to earn his second consecutive NBA Finals MVP is a definite if the Lakers can steal game seven.

I expect the Celtics to perform with the heart of a champion, but I can also appreciate Bryant's nonchalant approach and the business-like manner in which he views the series' final game.

Bryant, regardless of what anyone feels, is still the NBA's best player and if his teammates reciprocate his performances, the Lakers are the NBA's best team.

The Lakers stand on the threshold of history and if they can muster the will to win on Thursday night, their journey will be complete.

It's been quite a ride for the team who was favored to win it all before the season started, and if they can, all the ridiculous criticism the Lakers have faced will be rendered obsolete.

Bryant will have once again added another notch on his belt of greatness and, thanks to his teammates, his dream for a thumb ring still could come true.

The Lakers are 48 minutes from their 16th championship and despite the constant doubts they have faced this season, their resilience has been proved time and again.

Maybe Bryant was right when he told reporters he wasn't tripping about game seven.

Maybe it was the observers who have questioned the heart, desire and talent of the Lakers and their ability to play as a team who were tripping all along.

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