So, Boston in seven? No way in hell, if tonight was any indication. The Celtics played like they had one to spare in Game 6, getting pounded from start-to-finish in a 89-67 loss at Staples Center, setting up the grand finale for Thursday night. If momentum means anything these days, the Lakers are in good shape.
Ron Artest showed up for the first time in the series, scoring eight of his 15 points in the first to guide Los Angeles to a 10-point lead through 12 minutes — one they never came close to looking back on. Kobe Bryant also scored 11 of his 26 in the quarter, plus added 11 rebounds, three assists and four steals, and Pau Gasol recovered from a rough go in Game 5, finishing with 17 points, 13 boards, nine assists and three blocks.
Not only did Boston lose the game, it also may have lost a key piece for Game 7 — Kendrick Perkins went down in the second quarter with a knee sprain and didn’t return, and as of now is undetermined for Thursday. Though the Celtics were already in a hole when he went down, Perkins’ absence was felt: Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis and Shelden Williams combined to go scoreless on 11 field goal attempts in 58 minutes. In fact, Williams, who had seen just 43 minutes in Boston’s first 22 playoff games, strung together arguably the ugliest 14 minutes in NBA Finals history. Seriously — I’ve never seen a player look so out of his element in such an important game.
The big men off the bench were far from the only source of ugliness from the Celtics: Aside from a team-high 19 from Ray Allen, Boston got sub-par outings from Kevin Garnett (12 points, six boards), Paul Pierce (13, four) and Rajon Rondo (10 points on 5-of-15). I’ll say this about Rondo, too: When he’s on, he’s incredible. When he’s off, it’s ugly — airballs, badly missed free throws, errant passes and just general out-of-control play. We’ll have to see what we get Thursday.
I wouldn’t have minded Boston closing it out tonight, but I’m not about to argue with a Game 7. How many good championship series have we gotten out of the major sports the past 10 years? Not too many, if you ask me. We’ve already gotten plenty of good out of this one, and it’s only about to get better (assuming the Celtics decide to show up).