Home cooking fueled the Lakers hustle to a dominant Game 6 victory against rival Boston Celtics. In 48 hours, the Los Angeles Lakers went from the brink of elimination and failure to a convincing favorite to win the 2010 NBA Championship. Thursday night, Los Angeles will host Game 7, the final battle of the 2010 NBA Finals, between the NBA’s two greatest dynasties, the Los Angeles Lakers vs. the Boston Celtics. Can it get any better than this?
After the Lakers failed in the last two games in Boston, many fans wondered if the Celtics were indeed the better team. In Game 6, the Lakers dominated from the start, and every star contributed, while the Boston Celtics floundered. Did the Lakers dominate because they were the better team, or because the Celtics simply had an off-night?
Consider the fact that the Lakers’ 89 total points in Game 6 blowout win would not have been enough points to win four of the previous five games. That could be a positive for Boston or LA depending on your perspective. LA shot just 40 percent, and scored just 13 points in the fourth quarter after pulling the stars with 3:19 remaining. They also had spots of scoreless droughts, like the first three minutes of the second half. It was far from the fluid performance they are capable of.
The Boston Celtics’ meager 67 total points were the second fewest in NBA Finals history. Was it the Lakers defense that held Boston to just 33 percent shooting, or was it simply the Celtics playing poorly on their own merit? Rasheed Wallace went 0 for 8, including several open 3-pointers he normally makes. Rajon Rondo shot just 5 of 15 FG, including an uncontested 15 foot air ball, and two missed free-throws. Is the Lakers defense improving, or are the Celtics simply fading?
1st Quarter Recap
After missing his previous 18 three-point attempts, Ray Allen scored a 3-pointer at 7:32. He had 19 points on 50% percent FG, shooting for a team-game-high. Derek Fisher picked up his second foul 6:37, and exited to the bench. He was in foul trouble all night ,and played just 15 minutes, with 4 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 steals in the game. Shannon Brown’s early entrance in the game gave the Lakers a spark defensively. Kendrick Perkins suffered a knee injury at 6:30, and never returned to the game for Boston.
This gave the Lakers an easier path to the rim. The Lakers’ 8-0 run gave them an 18-12 lead, with five and a half minutes remaining in the first quarter. Ron Artest’s second made 3-pointer at 2:56 was a welcomed sight for Lakers fans, and put LA up 26-16. Kobe Bryant tallied 11 points on 5 of 8 shooting. Ron Artest scored 8. And, after a dismal Game 5 performance, Pau Gasol was active from the start, with 5 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 assists. LA’s 60 percent FG shooting helped them to a 28-18 lead after one quarter.
2nd Quarter Recap
At the 9:00 minute mark, Lamar Odom’s two free throws gave the Lakers a 34-20 lead. At 7:46, Kobe Bryant went to the bench for an early rest, and the Lakers continued to build the lead. Jordan Farmar’s lay-up and a put back from Pau Gasol gave the Lakers a 17-point lead 40-23. Still rolling, Sasha Vujacic’s 3-pointer followed by a Jordan Farmar dunk put the Lakers up by 20 points (45-25) with five minutes remaining in the half. With Andrew Bynum limited by the knee injury, Josh Powell got his first playing time of the NBA Finals at 4:44. Kobe Bryant’s lay-up (3:34) gave the Lakers their largest lead of the first half (49-27). Bryant earned 15 points on 50 percent shooting. He received help in the form of 10 points from Ron Artest, and 7 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists from Pau Gasol. Ray Allen led Boston with 14 points. The Lakers dominated the boards, with a 30-13 rebounding edge. Score at half time was 51-31
3rd Quarter Recap
During the first three minutes of the second half, Boston was 1 for 6 FG, Lakers 1 for 2. Paul Pierce’s 3-pointer (7:00) was answered by a 3 point play by Kobe Bryant at the other end, 58-38 Lakers. At 5:10, Shannon Brown produced two back-to-back highlight dunks, 62-42 LA. At 2:03, Kobe left the game after picking up this third foul. Rajon Rondo’s horrific free-throw shooting continued while bricking two attempts followed by a 15-foot air ball, and a missed teardrop shot. Rondo is now 4 of 17 from the charity stripe. Ouch! Sasha Vujacic and Ron Artest closed out the third quarter with 3-point makes to blow open the game 76-51. Through the first three quarters, the Lakers bench outscored the Celtics bench 24-0.
4th Quarter Recap
At 11:15, the Lakers had the largest lead of the NBA Finals 27 points (78-51) after Pau Gasol’s two made free-throws. At 9:56, Nate Robinson’s 3 point play (lay up and free throw) gave the Celtics their first bench points of the game. At 8:55, Gasol’s dunk gave the Lakers an 80-54 lead. At 4:14, Doc Rivers waved the white flag and pulled his starters. Bryant and Gasol left the game at 3:19 with the Lakers up 88-62. Final Score 89-67
Game 7 Prediction
Kobe Bryant needed only 22 points, thanks to the support of his teammates. Once again, give credit where credit is due. I called Ron Artest a bust based on his performance after the first five games. He showed up in Game 6 and delivered. If he can do that one more time, he might earn some championship bling.
The Lakers shot 89.5 percent FT, missing just two attempts, which is an important improvement.
Most importantly, the Lakers played with passion, and won Game 6 because of their hustle. Derek Fisher and Andrew Bynum had zero impact on the game; as a team, they shot just 31 percent, 6 of 19 from 3-point range, and they scored only 89 points (a point total which wouldn’t have been enough to win four of their previous five games), and they still won.
Game 7 will be decided by who hustles after loose balls, who owns the boards (rebounds), and who makes open shots. Will Rondo make his open shots for Boston? Will Artest follow up Game 6’s sharp shooting with another strong performance in Game 7? Which team will be less affected by the loss of their Centers, Andrew Bynum and Kendrick Perkins?
Which team will etch another notch of greatness into their dynasty?
Phil Jackson’s 224 post-season wins are more than any coach in any sport in all of North America. He has more NBA Championships than any other coach in NBA history. However, he has never won an NBA Finals Game 7. He also has never defeated the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals championship game. Game 7 Prediction: History will be made. Lakers win by 7 points.