If you do not like that analogy you may rather perceive them as chess masters seeking to perpetually one up his opponent.
It is far from coincidental that the team with the rebounding edge has won every game of this series that is knotted at three games apiece with the showdown, the battle at high noon if you prefer western movie parlance, set for Staples Center in Los Angeles Thursday night.
Will home court advantage prove the difference and provide Phil Jackson with his 11th NBA championship?
In certain circumstances this might be a decider but in the case of Rivers’ Celtics they had a better road record over the 2009-10 campaign than their home mark.
Something happened over the course of the crucial 89-67 win in Game 6 to keep the home L.A. team alive in the best of seven series that might have ultimately changed momentum for good while giving the Lakers the advantage needed to win this entertaining nip and tuck NBA finals.
The Celtics were still in the hunt when their big man up the middle, Kendrick Perkins, was injured. He could not even walk back to the Celtics’ dressing room unaided. Rivers acknowledged glumly after the game that it does not look good for his team with Perkins out of action.
From that point the Lakers took charge and helped themselves to a substantial rebound bulge that enabled them to win by double digits.
Celtics’ point guard Rajon Rondo, the team’s quarterback, acknowledged that Perkins is Boston’s “enforcer.”
Perkins will not play and the question is one of whether Rondo and Rivers were seeking to psych the Lakers into overconfidence. More than likely with the comments made so close to the time of the injury the sad commentaries registered sincere concern and were not part of the ever unfolding battle of strategic wits that has dominated this series.
When Boston moved into a 3-2 advantage with its Game 5 victory in the team’s final appearance before the home folks this season, the same issue of a big man’s injury that now plagues the Celtics was a factor that loomed in Boston’s favor prior to flying to Los Angeles and seeking to close out the series.
Andrew Bynum had some positive moments during the series, but the problem relating to his knee injury was sustaining the pace for a full game.
Here was a tough player who had to have his bad knee periodically drained. After one impressive slam dunk early in Game 5 Bynum was seen grimacing as he ran back to defend against the next Boston offensive onslaught.
So much of the strategic jockeying between Jackson and Rivers related to taking control of the paint with their big men. With a healthy Bynum the Celtics were prevented from effectively double teaming dangerous Laker man in the paint Pau Gasol.
Once that Perkins left the scene not only was Gasol able to maneuver more freely. Lamar Odom was also dominant in the rebound department.
With Bynum at least partially neutralized by his injury the Celtics were then able to gain the advantage by strategically deploying their three man committee led by Perkins and bolstered by Glen Davis and Rasheed Wallace.
Expect Rivers to seek to surprise Jackson with a ploy involving the strategy of his remaining big men in the paint or in the pick and roll quarterbacking school run by Rondo, or perhaps a combination of the two.
No matter what Rivers might have earlier said about things not looking good for his team, the proud former Atlanta Hawks guard will not go down without a tough fight.
Phil Jackson knows Rivers and his team well enough to realize this.
It will not be over until the fat lady begins singing sometime tomorrow night at Staples Center. Who knows how many surprises we might see on either or both sides before that happens.
The Celtics will be without the services of their intimidating presence in the middle. This will necessitate finding creative ways to use their remaining men in the paint.