What To Expect In Game 7
Now the NBA Finals come down to one game, and this is to tell you what you won’t see on Thursday night.
You won’t see the Lakers team that, except for Kobe Bryant, forgot to show up for Game 5 in Boston. And you won’t see the Celtics club that, except for maybe Ray Allen, basically threw in the towel early in Game 6 in L.A. Tuesday night.
What you should see is a tense, taut, dramatic evening. Game 7s in the NBA Finals are just about as good as you can get in sports.
What we all have to figure out is what that 89-67 rout in Game 6 really meant. It is difficult to believe simply changing venues can so completely change the personality of both teams. But that’s definitely what happened at the Staples Center.
That, and, oh, yeah, something else. The Lakers were desperate, just as the Celtics were desperate in Game 5. Boston couldn’t come back to L.A. down, 3-2, and expect to win. And Phil Jackson’s guys couldn’t lose last night, or all those grand parade plans would have disappeared faster than the celebrity limos outside.
On Thursday, both teams will be equally desperate. So which one wins?
The one that plays the best defense. For all those skeptics who think Jackson can’t coach, ask them how the Lakers suddenly solved everything the Celtics ran on Tuesday night. All those wide open driving lanes you saw in Game 5 closed up like rush hour traffic on the 405. All that muscling in the paint wasn’t nearly as effective.
Kobe Bryant was terrific, as usual, but L.A. scored the biggest knockout of this series at the other end of the floor. Pau Gasol stopped looking like a punching bag and battled back, setting the tone early. Andrew Bynum managed to make his presence felt for a few minutes and Ron Artest got back to banging bodies and grabbing rebounds.
Artest also made a few 3-point shots. The question is, do you consider that good news or bad news? It was nice in this game, but is this the guy you really want taking 3s in Game 7? I don’t think so. The fear is that he’s so emboldened now, he might cast off at any moment.
Lakers fans had better hope it’s not THE moment on Thursday.
As much as the Staples crazies would love for the Celtics to play Game 7 the way they played Game 6, my advice is simple. Don’t count on it.
Once that thing got out of hand Tuesday night, you could almost see Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and the guys let up, saving their energy. They will need it in the biggest game of the season.
The Lakers will be favored now, and they should be. Home court advantage rarely has seemed as pivotal as it has been in this series.
But my suspicion is the gentlemen from Boston have one more big, passionate effort left in them. They will turn this next one into a tough, pressure-cooker of a game.
The possible loss of Kendrick Perkins, their best low-post defender, with a knee injury could make the difference. Both the Celtics’ defense and their overall depth take a big hit if he can’t play.
Does that mean the Lakers send Jack and everybody home happy after Game 7? Maybe.
Just don’t expect it to be anywhere near as comfy and laid back as that thing Tuesday night.
— Steve Bisheff