Lakers rout Celtics to force Game 7 in 2010 NBA finals
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers were far from panicked after losing two consecutive games in Boston and arriving back home on the brink of elimination. Coach Phil Jackson calmly said that his team was where it should be, while Kobe Bryant said the deficit wasn't a big deal, laughing to himself after jokingly saying that he wasn't confident that his team could come back to win the next two games at Staples Center to claim the NBA championship.
It didn't take long for the Lakers to show why there was little reason for concern that they couldn't extend the season on Tuesday, with Bryant putting up another impressive offensive display and his maligned teammates Pau Gasol, Ron Artest and Lamar Odom providing ample support -- and playing dominant defense -- during a lopsided, 89-67 victory that tied this best-of-seven series at 3-3 and forced the fourth Game 7 since the NBA moved to a 2-3-2 format in 1985.
Thursday's Game 7 will be the first in the NBA Finals since 2005, when the San Antonio Spurs beat the Detroit Pistons -- and the first at this stage for Jackson, Bryant or any of the Celtics. The Lakers are hoping to become just the third team in the past 22 years to win the final two games at home to win the title.
"It's really a high-tension situation," Jackson said. "Players have come down to putting a lot on the line at this particular point. A lot of times, it's not about the coaching at that point. It's about who comes out and provides energy on the floor and plays the kind of game and dictates the kind of game they want to dictate."
In scoring 71 points the two previous games, Bryant established that he could tally points against the Celtics, but the one-man show failed to produce wins with his teammates seemingly occupying the floor to keep the teams even. Before the game, Jackson said the Lakers had to ride Bryant's hot hand but would have to rely on more team play than "individual action."
Bryant again asserted himself offensively against the Celtics, scoring a game-high 26 points. But his outing was much efficient as he stepped back and let his teammates come along for the ride. He received a standing ovation when he left the game with 3 minutes 21 seconds remaining, with fans chanting, "MVP! MVP!"
Gasol returned from a disappearing act in Boston, where he reverted to his form in the 2008 Finals, when he had his toughness questioned after each shove from Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins. Gasol again showed the dominance he revealed in the first two games in Los Angeles, where he was an offensive focal point. Bryant helped get Gasol going early when he stole the ball from Paul Pierce and found Gasol cutting to the basket for a left-handed layup. Gasol nearly had a triple-double with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists.
The mercurial Artest finally awoke from a nearly four-game slumber, as he was aggressive on the offensive end and applied pressure on Pierce defensively. Artest made three-pointers and scored 15 points -- matching his total from Game 1.
Pierce, Garnett, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo all scored in double figures, but Celtics Coach Doc Rivers pulled them from the game with 4:14 remaining. Allen led the Celtics with 19 points and hit two three-pointers -- both in the first period -- after missing all 18 attempts from long distance in Boston.
The Celtics also lost center Perkins with 5:30 left in the first period, when he went up for a layup, Andrew Bynum and Bryant converged, and Perkins landed awkwardly. Perkins immediately reached for his right knee and signaled for the team trainer to come get him. Perkins was immobile for several minutes and needed to be assisted off the court by two teammates, unable to put any pressure on his leg. Perkins didn't return with what was called a knee sprain and the Celtics foundered in his absence.
"Doesn't look great. But I don't know," Rivers said about Perkins, who will be reevaluated Wednesday.
The Lakers destroyed the Celtics on the glass, outrebounding them 30-13 in the first half. They finished with a 52-39 rebound edge, continuing the one trend that has been able to hold through this unpredictable series: the team that wins the rebound war also wins the game.
"Our defense was good, our rebounding was better," Jackson said. "We had some good luck, some good fortune."
With Perkins gone, the other supporting characters for the Celtics were absent for Game 6. Their bench was outscored 24-0 by the Lakers' reserves through the first three quarters.
The Lakers led 18-12 when Perkins left the game and were able to quickly push the lead to double digits before the end of the period. After providing little in the form of reserve in Boston, the Lakers' second unit came in and sent a charge through the building. The Lakers' bench scored 13 of the team's first 17 points in the second period. Sasha Vujacic scored five points, Odom had four, while Jordan Farmar had four, including an impressive jack-hammer dunk over Garnett to give the Lakers a 45-25 lead.
Odom, who said he was battling flu-like symptoms in Boston, led the reserve brigade with eight points and 10 rebounds, while Vujacic added nine, including two three-pointers.
The Celtics are now 1-8 in close-out road games in the playoffs the past three seasons and haven't won a series away from TD Garden since beating Detroit at the Palace of Auburn Hills, Mich., in Game 6 of the 2008 Eastern Conference finals.
The Lakers and Celtics have the two best Game 7 records in NBA history. The Celtics are 20-6 all-time, having played four Game 7s in the past three seasons, going 3-1. The Lakers are 14-8 and haven't played a Game 7 since beating the Houston Rockets in the conference semifinals last season.