I think you get the picture.
In this teeth-gnashing series, statement games have been written in disappearing ink. Yet even if you can’t bring yourself to give the Lakers any momentum advantage after evening the series with a resounding 89-67 victory in Game 6 at Staples Center — and it’s O.K., because if you did, it would mean a) you haven’t been paying attention, and b) you’re insane — you’d have to admit that they stepped up and got it done when they had to.
“Our defense was good,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “Our rebounding was better. We had some good luck, some good fortune. We got some loose balls, some tipped balls. Those kinds of things change the course of a game.”
And now it’s on to Game 7, which is absolutely the last statement opportunity available this season. “It’s definitely not just another game,” noted Pau Gasol, who responded in a major way in Game 6, coming one assist short of a triple-double: 17 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists.
In the last two games in Boston, the Lakers seemed to have been sleepwalking, which isn’t ideal in a hotly contested series with everything at stake in a hostile environment against a bitter enemy. Naturally, some began to question their character, their courage, their ancestry, their immigration status and whether they indeed possessed “Y” chromosomes.
That, of course, is all radio talk-show blather. On Tuesday night, Doc Rivers, coach of the losing squad in Game 6, gave the best explanation of the funk that teams often find themselves in that has ever been offered.
“In the regular season there are games where guys just don’t put any effort. In the playoffs, I think everybody comes to the game to play well and play hard. Things go bad for them, they get frustrated, they start walking around thinking like the other team is moving, and confident, and quicker. I think it’s more that than anything else.”
That’s clear, because if you try to follow the so-called effort fluctuations in these Finals — first the Lakers have it, then the Celtics, then the Lakers, then the Celtics two times over, then the Lakers — you’ll likely get motion sickness.
Take Gasol on Tuesday night. He had looked like he was being pushed around Sunday in Game 5, but in fairness, none of the Lakers not named Kobe stood their ground in that game. It was because the Celtics were more aggressive and more efficient, and the Lakers seemed flat and confused by comparison.
But Gasol had a splendid Game 6, and it was because the Lakers collectively had a spring in their step both on offense and defense. They moved their bodies to create spacing, they moved the basketball, and they attacked the hoop when the opportunities presented themselves.
They also went after rebounds with a fury. They outrebounded Boston 30-13 in the first half and 52-39 for the game. And they played the kind of defense that teams with defensive reputations play.
There will be plenty of subplots to discuss between now and Thursday night’s Game 7, which will again be played in the Lakers’ gym.
Will Ron Artest be able to silence the little voices in his head that make him do bad things and contribute like he did Tuesday night, when he scored 15 points, including 3-of-6 from three-point land, while also keeping Paul Pierce in check (13 points in Game 6)?
Will the Lakers’ bench again outplay the Celtics’ pine brothers like they did in Game 6, thereby buttressing Jackson’s assertion — seconded by Rivers — that reserves tend to perform better at home?
Will Andrew Bynum, limited to just 16 minutes (two points, four rebounds), be able to pitch in Thursday? What about his counterpart in green, Kendrick Perkins, who hurt his knee in Game 6 and only played six minutes? Will Glen Davis be Shrek, or Donkey, or will he just be the completely unanimated character he was in Game 6 (0 points in 27 minutes, although he had nine rebounds)?
All of that is fascinating stuff. But Game 7 between the Lakers and Celtics doesn’t need much advanced billing, which is good, because after the six-game thrill ride to this point, I don’t know what anyone can say that could possible provide a window as to what will finally happen.
“It’s really a high-tension situation,” Jackson said.
At least we can be sure of that much.
PBT: The Spurs saw the NBA title slip through their fingers Tuesday night. Do they have it in them to rebound from their meltdown in time for Game 7?
Going the distance
Take a look back at all the Game 7s in NBA finals history.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
Bosh: 'We'll see who hits first'
Heat forward Chris Bosh talks about what could be a very physical Game 6 stating, "Hit them in the mouth, throat and their eyes." Miami coach Erik Spoelstra says the opposing Spurs "attack you ... but we do the same thing."
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