Lots of topics to discuss going into tomorrow’s game 7, so why not cover a few in some fast break thoughts?
* If you haven’t seen it already, check out the video below that Kevin Arnovitz put together for TrueHoop. This is just fantastic video detail of how the Lakers defense (and some questionable decisions from the Celtics) led to the Lakers best defensive efficiency output of the season. Great help and recovery, contested shots, and a true understanding of what the C’s were trying to do offensively with the appropriate defensive counter then put into action. If the Lakers are to actually claim the championship on Thursday, they must understand that this same caliber of defense will be needed even if the results are exactly the same. Because the C’s will watch this film and look for the holes in the Lakers rotations and what can be done in game 7 to out scheme what the Lakers have done here. But if the Lakers play with as much energy and awareness, they’ll be fine. So, bottle this up and bring to game 7, Lakers.
*Speaking of defense, the Lakers found a way to do a number on Rajon Rondo last night. For the second time in three games, the Lakers found a way to force Rondo into a 5-15 night with limited effectiveness in the half court. Over at NBA Playbook, Sebastian Pruiti has a great post up about what the Lakers did to Rondoand what counters the C’s can employ to avoid this outcome again that is a must read. And make no mistake, the C’s are going to counter to try and get Rondo going. An ineffectiveRondo greatly diminishes the Celtics’ offensive capabilities and makes it so Kobe can play the roamer role that he relishes in the half court. A big story line of game 7 will be if Rondo can find a way to bust out and make the Lakers defensive strategy against him fail Whether it’s through more cuts, quicker decisions, or just plain attacking more Rondo will have to change things up. Because if he has another substandard night it will be an uphill climb for the C’s on Thursday.
*Another key for Thursday will be the relative health of both team’s starting Centers. There are not yet any additional updates beyond what was discussed yesterday – Bynum will try to play after receiving treatment today(to what effectiveness is anyone’s guess) and we’re still awaiting news on the results of the MRI on Perkins’ knee “sprain”. After the game, Perkins also said that he’d try to give it a go but there aren’t too many that think it will actually happen. When we get more information, we’ll update this post. However, regardless of the effectiveness of both bigs (lets say both play and both are limited to less than 15 minutes) I believe that Perkins’ injury is a major blow to the Celtics. Perkins is that extra defender that does a good job on Gasol and he’s one of their best rebounders. Plus, this puts ‘Sheedin a position where he must be active for long minutes (conditioning isn’t his strong suit) while also staying out of foul trouble (something that might be difficult considering he’s had at least 3 fouls in 5 of the six games while never playing more than 22 minutes – a game he tallied 5 fouls). I’m not counting ‘Sheed out, but I will say that if it’s a limited Bynum + Pau/LO vs. a limited (or out entirely) Perkins + KG/’Sheed/Davis, I like the Lakers front line more even though they’re the more shallow group. Maybe that’s a homer’s approach, but that’s how I see it. (On a side note, I feel bad for Perkins. I hate to see injuries rob players of their chance to play, especially in games as big as these. We saw this from a Lakers perspective with Bynum in 2008, so I can sympathise with what the C’s fans are going through and I wish Perkins nothing but the best. He’s a great competitor, always plays hard, and never really gets enough credit for how much he does for the Celtics.) UPDATE: Perkins has officially been ruled out by Doc Rivers. Like I said earlier, I think this really hurts their team and puts the onus on their remaining big men to rebound and defend the paint for longer minutes than they’re accustomed to. That said, ‘Sheed and Big Baby are tough competitors, so I’m sure they’ll be ready, but it will be tough.
*I know these stats from the past have little impact on the game being played on the floor, but game 7 will end multiple streaks on one side or the other. From a “pro” Lakers side, we all know of Phil’s undefeated record when winning game 1 (which the Lakers did) and there’s also the undefeated record of game 3 winners in a tied series of a 2-3-2 format in the Finals (which the Lakers also won). However from a “pro” Celtics side, the C’s have never lost an NBA Finals when leading 3-2 and they’ve also never lost a game 7 to the Lakers (4-0 all time). So, take that history. You’re going down tomorrow. (Hopefully it’s those Celtic streaks that are thrown in the gutter.)
*On a personal level, I can’t wait for this game. I’ve lived through this rivalry from the early 80’s on to today and there’s no other team I’d rather the Lakers beat than the Celtics. The ’85 and ’87 championships were two of the sweetest I’ve experienced as a fan and being able to potentially add 2010 to that list would be fantastic. I mean, when FB&G asked commenters to talk about their favorite memories from the Lakers/Celtics rivalry, I wrote about my utter dislike of them:
I’ve loved all the triumphant moments, for sure. The baby hook, 1985, Magic’s off-balance/one legged/leaning left bank shot that won a game, etc, etc. But, and this may sound strange, the memories/moments that I love the most are the ones that keep me hating the Celtics…Every time I think of the McHale clothesline, every replay of Don Nelson hitting that high bouncing jumper off the back heel, every Celtic fan whining about how 1986 isn’t the same because of the Lakers “choke job” against Houston (when Sampson hit that totally lucky volleyball set looking jumper), every excuse about how in 1987 McHale had a broken foot and everyone was injured so that title is less than worthy, every mention of how we wouldn’t have won in 2008 even with Bynum/Ariza, all the lunacy about how in 2009 they would have won with a healthy KG, how they still have the lead with 17, all the BS about leprechauns and the ghost of Red, all the back and forth I have with my friends who follow that repugnant team….man, just writing that got me ready for the season to start. I really, really don’t like them and every memory that reinforces that is a good one. Those memories just fuel me to dislike them more and root against them harder and savor every victory over them like it’s the only thing that ever mattered.
Like I said, I’ll always love those epic moments where being a fan is rewarded with it’s best reward – the vanquishing of a true rival. But those moments would mean nothing without the hate. So, the memories I love the most are the ones that keep those feelings alive. Keep ‘em coming Celtics fans, you make us thrashing you that much sweeter.
So, all I’m asking for is one more sweet moment. Game 7 is tomorrow and I’m not thinking of anything else besides a Lakers win.