LOS ANGELES -- Whatever you do, don't make too much of Game 6. Trust me on this one, OK? Been there, done that, and I know the temptation. The temptation, after watching the Lakers destroy the Celtics 89-67 on Tuesday night, is to concede Game 7 to the Lakers as well.
|Paul Pierce tries to make an impact, but he gets no help out there. (Getty Images)|
But we've been here before. All of us. Don't tell me you've forgotten Game 1. The Celtics were awful in Game 1, so bad that I wondered that night, in my story from the game, how could "the Boston team I saw tonight beat Los Angeles three times in the next five games"? Didn't matter how bad the Celtics looked in Game 1. Didn't matter what I wondered. They went on to win three of the next four games. The Celtics rebounded from that abysmal Game 1 by winning Game 2, right here at Staples Center.
So now we have a Game 7. And it looks bad for the Celtics. I'll give you that.
For starters, the Celtics are likely to be down a starter. Center Kendrick Perkins popped his right knee in the first quarter, and while the initial diagnosis was a vague-sounding "knee sprain," the other evidence was compelling. Perkins crumpled to the floor and grabbed the knee, then looked at the Boston bench, then pointed at his knee. He didn't return. He won't be back for Game 7. Starting center, out? That sounds cripplingly bad, but honestly, it's not.
Celtics coach Doc Rivers was planting that seed, through the media, by refusing to play along with a reporter who asked him about missing someone like Perkins who is "one of the guys who does a lot of rebounding for you ..."
Rivers cut off the questioning right there.
"He's a guy that cleans the paint up, let's say," Rivers said.
Game 6: Lakers 89, Celtics 67
|Schedule and Results|
Game 1: Lakers 102, Celtics 89
Game 2: Celtics 103, Lakers 94
Game 3: Lakers 91, Celtics 84
Game 4: Celtics 96, Lakers 89
Game 5: Celtics 92, Lakers 86
Game 6: Lakers 89, Celtics 67
Game 7: 9 p.m. ET - Thursday, June 17 (L.A.)
Translation: Let's not say he's one of the guys who does a lot of rebounding for the Celtics, because that makes Perkins sound indispensable. And Kendrick Perkins isn't that.
Perkins is important only if the Lakers have a physical low-post presence to defend, and they do not. I mean, they did. His name is Andrew Bynum. But Bynum has been reduced by a lingering knee injury to cameo appearances and scant production in the last four games. Bynum took himself out of Game 6 shortly after halftime and didn't return. The Lakers won by 22 points. Bynum scored two of them, even with Perkins out. So don't make too much of Perkins' absence for Game 7. He is only, as Rivers pointed out, "a guy that cleans the paint up."
Of bigger concern for Boston is the irrelevant play of point guard Rajon Rondo, anointed by some in the media as one of the best point guards in the NBA. Which is a joke. When he's good, sure, Rondo is very good. But a great point guard is never as bad as Rondo was in Game 6, when he was 5 for 15 from the floor and 0 for 2 from the foul line. Rondo was so useless, getting nobody involved, that Rivers took the ball out of his hands in the second half and asked Paul Pierce to initiate the offense. Pierce tried, and failed. He scored 13 points. He had two assists. He had five turnovers.
He had no help, did Paul Pierce. Rondo was awful. Perkins was injured. Ray Allen was sensational for the first quarter, then indifferent the rest of the game. The same goes for Kevin Garnett. And the Boston bench? Terrible. All 13 of its points came in garbage time, and the Celtics' top three subs -- Rasheed Wallace, Glen Davis and Tony Allen -- played 62 combined minutes and scored two total points.
Wallace in particular was useless, missing all seven shots, six from 3-point range. He had more fouls (four) than rebounds (three). And he had the same number of blocked shots, steals and assists that I had.
After the game, Wallace pulled his usual crap. He dressed in silence, refusing to speak to the media, and when he bumped into a reporter near his locker -- not me -- Wallace stared the poor guy down on his way out the door. That's Rasheed. Tough guy after the game. Tissue paper during it.
It wasn't just Wallace, though. None of the Celtics could shoot in Game 6. Shelden Williams missed a wide-open dunk. Rondo missed a contested dunk. Ray Allen drove to the rim and threw up a left-handed layup that didn't hit anything -- twice. Rondo shot a 16-footer about 14 feet.
Most telling was a possession in the fourth quarter, with the game out of reach. It was a possession that saw the Celtics score, but still it was embarrassing. Tony Allen missed a breakaway. Nate Robinson was there for the putback, and he missed it. Allen got the rebound and put it in.
This fast break was two on none. And the Celtics needed three shots to score.
It was reminiscent of Game 1, when Garnett -- the future Hall of Famer -- had three dunks and missed two of them. He looked ancient. His team looked awful. The NBA Finals looked destined for four games, five tops.
But then came Game 2. Ray Allen was hotter than any 3-pointer shooter has ever been in the NBA Finals. Rondo had a triple-double. The Boston bench scored 24 points. The Celtics won by nine points.
Learn from that game, people. I promise you, the Lakers did.