Celtics vs. Lakers: Truth Is, Paul Pierce, Boston Need Game Seven More

Robert Kleeman@@RobertKleemanSenior Analyst IJune 16, 2010

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 15:  Paul Pierce #34 and Ray Allen #20 of the Boston Celtics sit on the bench in the fourth quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Six of the 2010 NBA Finals 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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Forget ubuntu. The Los Angeles Lakers handed the Boston Celtics an ubuttkicking in an 89-67 Game Six rout on Tuesday.

Doc Rivers can say this of his players: they took it together.

While the Lakers' role players risked floor burns to dive for loose balls, the Celtics were just burned. Now, Boston and its cocky leader sit on the witness stand, flaming in the court of public opinion.

If teams go as the leaders do, Paul Pierce went quietly. He screamed "we ain't coming back to L.A." after a decisive Game Two victory. Tuesday night, he scurried away from the action like a traumatized, frightened mouse.

A 6-of-14 performance in a potential clincher just stinks. His 13-point whimper was so whimpy...whispers something...oh, forget it.

The Lakers grabbed 52 rebounds, scored 40 points in the paint, swiped the ball 12 times, and led by 13 in the second quarter and never looked back, leading by as many as 27.

Pau Gasol finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists, and three blocks. Kobe Bryant scored 26 points and hauled down 11 rebounds. Lamar Odom returned from his series respite to snag 10 boards.

Phil Jackson adjusted his glasses more than once in disbelief. Was Odom, a popular scapegoat for the Lakers pratfalls in games four and five, really out there gobbling up misses like he does candy bars? How could it be this easy?

I'll print the Celtics totals in Thursday's game if they show up for it. For much of Tuesday, Rivers could have confused the spiritless, lackadaisical, shameful guys in green for rodeo clowns. Don't most rodeos take place in February and March?

Rivers assured hoops scribes before the game his team was prepared to close the deal. The squad's performance hours later was an insult to BP's competence. Disaster response? Way to make those guys look like geniuses.

Can we say we're surprised? The Celtics entered the contest 1-7 in road closeout opportunities since Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett arrived.

The Celtics could have closed out the Lakers at the Staples Center in the 2008 Finals, but Kobe Bryant robbed Paul Pierce in the final minute of Game Five to seal a victory and send the series back to TD Garden in Boston.

That year, the C's failed to close out the Atlanta Hawks and Cleveland Cavaliers on the road and had to win a pair of game sevens to keep their title dream alive.

Sans Garnett in the 2009 postseason, Boston lost a pair of potential series-clinching game sixes in Chicago and Orlando.

Less than a month ago, these Celtics surged to a 3-0 lead over the Orlando Magic only to throw up a clunker in Game Four. Two nights later, the Magic whacked them by 19 points at Amway Arena. Dwight Howard administered concussions to the Celtic frontline and Boston fans wary of the Bruins colossal choke weeks earlier.

Referees ejected Kendrick Perkins that night with his sixth and seventh technical fouls. He avoided a one-game suspension when the league rescinded the second technical the next morning.

Rivers lost Perkins again Tuesday night to a right knee sprain. The league cannot rescind that.

The lone solace for the Celtics is what they did in all but one of those series when a home closeout opportunity followed.

Derek Fisher and the rest of the Lakers remembered the final score of the two teams' previous Game Six. The 39-point Finals drubbing provided enough motivational fuel to last them two years.

Needing a victory to set up a winner-take-all affair, the Lakers did all the spanking on Tuesday. They pushed, shoved, grunted, and did whatever necessary to secure the ball and the game.

Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar slammed it home. Boston was just slammed.

The Celtics have not lost to the Lakers when leading 3-2 or in a game seven.

John Havlicek, Bill Russell, and Larry Bird aren’t walking through that door. Perkins might not, either.

Given that, Game Seven rests in Pierce's hands. He must answer Thursday night as previous Celtic greats did with their legacies on the line.

Those who opine that Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant must beat the green machine to cement themselves as all-time greats need to get real.

Jackson has coached 10 championship teams. Most coaches in any sport struggle to win one title.

Rivers will not challenge Jackson's record. Nor will Gregg Popovich or Pat Riley. Red Auerbach cannot light two more championship victory cigars when he's dead.

If anyone thought to visit his gravesite after the Celtics' Tuesday effort and brought a shovel, they would have uncovered a disgusted man rolling uncontrollably.

You want to question Bryant as the second best shooting guard ever? Get that stuff out of here.

You want to question Pierce? Bombs away.

Until he won a championship in 2008, his playoff heroics remained a footnote. How many casual fans remember his 19-point fourth quarter against the New Jersey Nets in the 2002 playoffs? That outburst brought the Celtics back from a 21-point deficit in the final period, the largest postseason comeback in NBA history.

He poured in 50 points opposite of LeBron James in 2006. He can boast an impressive eight All-Star appearances and four All-NBA selections.

He has averaged 22.9 points per game in his 11-plus seasons as a Celtic. How he ends this one will determine how observers view the above numbers years from now.

Does he rank with Boston's legends, or will he retire as an All-Star performer who hoisted his lone trophy with an exorbitant rental outfit?

His mission is clear.

Stop the yapping, halt the bully talk, and abandon the arrogance. Thursday night, the suave Pierce must back up his bravado with substance. His superstar game did not make the flight from Logan to LAX.

Can he find it in the span of 48 hours? He better.

These Celtics, as Pierce should know, could soon go the way of the Soviet Union.

Rivers has hinted he might leave the bench so he can spend more time with his family. That could happen this summer.

The coach's stubborn belief that health and playoff experience would allow the 50-win Celtics to contend proved true. His faith glued the team together when humiliating home losses to the Memphis Grizzlies and crippled Houston Rockets should have torn them apart.

Rivers might be the biggest reason the front office did not deal away Ray Allen at the trade deadline.

Allen, the sharpshooter who set a Finals record for made three-pointers in Game Two, will become an unrestricted free agent July 1. Can General Manager Danny Ainge afford to pay him what he will command in the open market? Can Ainge afford to let Allen wear another jersey?

Nate Robinson, Tony Allen, and four others could also head elsewhere. Celtics ownership will have to pay up or lose big.

Pierce's contract has an early termination option.

Kevin Garnett remains under contract, as do starters Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins, but how much longer can his teammates drag him up and down the floor in January and hope that he'll have enough juice to supplement his snarl with title-worthy production in May and June?

Rodeo clowns? Game Seven might be the last rodeo for these Celtics.

The Lakers, by contrast, have locked up Bryant and Gasol through the summer of 2014. Andrew Bynum and Odom are secure. Artest, for better or worse, is on board.

The chief quandary in the land of purple and gold: What to do at point guard? Farnar, Brown, and Fisher will all hit the market. GM Mitch Kupchak can use the team's mid-level exception to lure a free agent plus use some of it to help re-sign Fisher.

The Lakers seem a few years away from the end of their road. The Celtics' veterans cannot dodge that blinking exit sign. 

Pierce should know one more thing: Forrest Gump's mother was wrong.

Kobe Bryant's supporting cast is more like a box of chocolates than life. Bryant never knows what he's going to get.

How can Pierce and the Celtics know?

Ron Artest returned from his shooting slumber to drill three triples. A dive from mistake-prone Farmar symbolized the Lakers' indomitability.

The Celtics, as they have been wont to do with this cast, snoozed for most of Game Six.

It's on Pierce to wake them up, to rally them into the history books. Pierce's legend would grow if he played on the first team to break Jackson's 47-0 record after winning the series opener.

Jackson will still rank as the NBA's all-time best coach if the Celtics make it 47-1.

The truth? Pierce cannot allow Boston to become the 48th victim, for his sake or theirs.


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