Lakers Defeat Celtics, Force Championship-Deciding Game 7

| by Alex Groberman

David Stern is sitting on the floor somewhere, on his knees, thanking the lord for answering his prayers. There will be a Game 7 in the NBA Finals, and it will feature two of the most storied franchises in the history of the sport.

In an almost historical display, the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Boston Celtics 89-67 to tie their NBA Finals series up at 3-3.

Kobe Bryant led the way for his team with 26 points and 11 rebounds. Whereas during Game 5 Bryant would have moments of brilliance, followed by moments of bricks, Game 6 saw a very consistent effort from the Lakers’ star player. Whenever the team needed a timely bucket, a clutch rebound or a defensive stop, Bryant was there.

“We did a great job,” Bryant said. “We have to come with the same energy, the same dedication to defense (in Game 7).”

Pau Gasol bounced back from a very average Game 5 with a 17 point 13 rebound effort, providing Bryant with the second option that he was desperately looking for. He also played excellent defense on Kevin Garnett, who put up a mere 12 points and 6 rebounds in 31 minutes.

“We want to carry everything we did tonight to (Game 7), and then I think we’ll be in a very good place to win,” Gasol said. “When you bring the intensity we did tonight, good things are going to happen.”

The most surprising player of the night, without a doubt was Ron Artest. The summer free agent pickup that was supposed to lead the way with his toughness and grittiness was borderline useless for the purple and gold in Game 5, but he clearly came to play on Tuesday night. On top of putting up 15 points on 6-11 shooting, he also managed to -- kind of -- lock down Paul Pierce to the tune of 13 points on 6-14 shooting.

If Artest and the Lakers were the “good” from tonight’s game, then you can consider the play of the Celtics both the “bad” and the “ugly” of Game 6. Their 67 points was the second lowest scoring output in NBA history. In fact, the only time a team has been held to fewer points in the NBA Finals was the Utah Jazz in 1998, when they scored 54 points against the Chicago Bulls.

Ray Allen who had been having a terrible few games, bounced back with 19 points to lead the way for the hobbling Celtics.

“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.”

Pierce, who led the charge for the Celtics in Game 5 just couldn’t get it going offensively. Not only did he score a mere 13 points, he also played horrid defense and seemed out-of-rhythm for most of the game.

Rajon Rondo didn’t fair much better than Pierce, getting off to a 1-8 shooting start before finishing with only 10 points.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers had this to say after the game:

“I thought we’d play better, obviously I thought we were ready … We played an individual game tonight on both ends. We never gave ourselves an opportunity offensively, because we never trusted each other. Everybody was out to make their own place.”

To add injury to insult, the Celtics lost their starting center, Kendrick Perkins in the first quarter to a sprained knee.

With Perkins out and Rasheed Wallace in early foul trouble, there was nobody to grab the rebounds for the Celtics. They ended up getting outrebounded by the Lakers 52-39 for the game, with a 30-13 disparity by halftime. 

“Our defense was good, our rebounding was better,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said after the game.

“It’s really a high-tension situation,” added Jackson. “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.”

Thursday night will mark the fifth Game 7 the two franchises have played against one another in the last 12 finals meetings, with Boston winning the first four.

The last time the NBA saw a finals series go this long was five years ago, when the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Detroit Pistons to win their third title with Tim Duncan.

This will be the 17th Game 7 in NBA Finals history.

The Lakers are now 10-1 at the Staples Center in the 2010 NBA Playoffs, with the deciding game scheduled for Thursday, in Los Angeles.