The Los Angeles Lakers were on a mission to force a deciding Game 7 against the Boston Celtics, and that’s exactly what they did with a 89-67 victory Tuesday night. The Celtics were out of the game early, and they couldn’t match the energy of the Lakers down the stretch.
The series will now hinge on a deciding Game 7 Thursday night in Los Angeles. Kobe Bryant and the Lakers looked to be ready for the challenge, even though a Finals Game 7 is something Bryant and his teammates have yet to add to their resumes.
Bryant scored 26 points, and was much better at getting his other teammates involved. Pau Gasol was one assist away from a triple double, adding 17 points to the Lakers’ total and grabbing 13 rebounds.
A player that has been absent when the team arrived in Boston, resurfaced in the Staples Center when it mattered the most. Ron Artest scored 15 behind 50 percent three-point shooting. He also pulled down six rebounds and added a block to his Game 6 line.
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Artest was the key player in a defensive effort that held the Celtics to the second lowest point total in an NBA Finals game. The Celtics shot only 33 percent from the floor, and their star Paul Pierce only could muster 13 while being defended by Artest.
After the game, Kobe praised the effort given by his players that mirrored the 1998 Chicago Bulls’, who held the Utah Jazz to 54 points in Game 3 of that series.
“I was very happy,” Bryant said. “We did a great job defensively. We kept them out of the middle, kept them out of the paint, did a good job on the boards. It was a solid effort by us.”
The team that has won the rebound battle has won the game so far in this series. The story was no different Tuesday as the Lakers took 13 more rebounds than the Celtics. While Gasol was the leader on the boards for the Lakers, Bryant also made a commitment to the boards grabbing 11 rebounds. Lamar Odom also turned in an impressive performance although he was playing with flu-like symptoms. He scored eight points, and pulled down 10 rebounds of his own. The Laker bench outscored the Celtics 25-13.
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Ray Allen was the bright spot for the Celtics scoring 19 points. He hit his first two three pointers since breaking an NBA Finals record for threes made in Game 2.
“We didn’t get in any rhythm early, and it affects our chemistry,” said Allen, whose two 3-pointers were his first since hitting a Finals-record eight in Game 2. “We each tried to make the home run play early. As a starting unit, we take responsibility. We have to do a better job next game.”
Despite being a 10-time champion, Laker coach Phil Jackson has never participated in a Game 7 at an NBA Finals. He believes that his players must now find the will to win within themselves.
“Players have come down to putting a lot on the line at this particular point. It’s not about the coaching at that point. They’ve already got it in them. It’s about who comes out and provides the energy on the floor,” said Jackson.
NBA sportsbooks have set the Lakers as the favorites going into Game 7 by seven points. The Celtics underdog line to win outright has been set at +260, and the Lakers at -320. The over/under for total points scored in the game has been set at 187.