NBA Finals - Game 6 Recap
L.A. Lakers 89, Boston 67 - Series tied, 3-3
The good news: There's only one more game left in a very choppy and aesthetically unsatisfying NBA Finals.
The bad news: There's still one game left in a very choppy and aesthetically unsatisfying NBA Finals.
Yes, if you don't have a dog in this hunt and you're completely impartial to the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, you're glad that the NBA Finals will definitely end late Thursday night in Game 7. Then again, you likely wished that this series wouldn't linger any longer. However, after the clunker the Celtics posted on a night when the world championship could have been clinched, those wishes won't ever be fulfilled. We're going the distance, like it or not.
The Lakers, unwilling to give up their world championship without a fight, showed the resilience and life any sensible basketball mind should have expected from them on their home floor. While it's true that Los Angeles trailed this series 3-2 heading into this Tuesday night tilt at Staples Center, the fact remained that the Lakers held home-court advantage and merely had to hold serve in order to steer this series to a deciding contest in Southern California. Los Angeles won back home court with a road win in Game 3 at TD Garden, so the Celtics' series lead - while quite meaningful - didn't add up to anything overly alarming within the framework of the Finals' 2-3-2 travel format. The Lakers simply took care of business on Tuesday, and now they're one win - on home hardwood, no less - from repeating as NBA champions.
The Lakers plainly showed the urgency and sharpness they flashed in Game 1 but rarely revealed in the series' subsequent four games. Coach Phil Jackson's club blitzed Boston in the first half, taking a 49-27 lead late in the second quarter and coasting to a 51-31 halftime advantage. The Lakers clamped down on defense, as Boston sparkplug Rajon Rondo missed seven of his first eight shots. The Celtics' cause was severely hampered when center Kendrick Perkins got knocked out of the game with an injury midway through the first quarter (Perkins suffered a torn MCL and PCL, and is doubtful for Game 7), but even without Perkins, it needs to be said that Laker big man Andrew Bynum scored just 2 points in 16 ineffective minutes. It's not as though the Lakers suddenly gained a huge edge in the paint. Both centers were physically unable to last on the floor, and the Lakers' supporting cast was the one that took action.
Pau Gasol was the centerpiece of this Laker romp. The Spaniard, who got pushed around by Perkins (but also others) in Boston, flourished back in his L.A. home. Gasol delivered a performance almost as imposing as his Game 2 tour de force. The prime post player for the Lake Show scored 25 in Game 2, but on this night, he played a more blended game. Gasol posted 17 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists, and 3 blocks in a well-rounded effort that gave ballast to the Lakers at both ends of the floor. Because of Gasol's prowess, Kobe Bryant didn't need to take over the game. The Black Mamba scored a modest (for him) 26 points on 9-of-19 shooting, but with Gasol returning to form and Ron Artest chipping in 15 big points, the Lakers were no longer playing the 1-on-5 basketball seen in New England.
Yes, Derek Fisher scored only 4 points and Lamar Odom (8 points) wasn't outstanding, but L.A. certainly proved to be more involved in the game than the Celtics. The Lakers' bench - silent in Boston - came alive in Game 6 by scoring 24 points before Boston's bench even registered one bucket (early in the fourth quarter). The old truism that the role players emerge at home in the NBA was proven and reaffirmed on Tuesday. A little home cooking was all the Lakers needed to get at least somewhat healthy.
Boston - which lost Game 3 a week ago on a Tuesday night after a Sunday game and a cross-country flight - looked out of rhythm due to the grueling travel schedule. The Perkins injury certainly hurt the C's, who were outrebounded 30-13 after Perkins left the game, but coach Doc Rivers' team never found any rhythm whatsoever. When 20 points is your highest-scoring quarter and your average points-per-quarter tally is 17 (rounded to the nearest whole number), you have problems. The bench that was so instrumental to Boston's Game 4 and Game 5 triumphs was a no-show at Staples. Glen Davis failed to score a point in 27 minutes, while Rasheed Wallace and Tony Allen combined for 2 points in 34 total floor minutes. The Celtics trailed by 25 after three quarters, looking like a beaten team far before the final horn. This game showed why it was absolutely essential for Boston to lead 3-2 after five games. It's next to impossible to imagine how the C's could have found the mental and physical resources to win two straight games in Los Angeles. Now, with this aberrationally bad and prematurely decided game over, a somewhat fresher Boston bunch can regroup and recharge for Game 7.
Yes, this series goes on, but on Thursday it will end. Two proud franchises have competed very hard over the past two weeks, but on the other hand, the 2010 NBA Finals have not recalled the glory days of Bird, Magic, Kareem and McHale. The basketball world should be happy that this disjointed seven-game showdown will arrive at its final destination soon enough.
By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer
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