From Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: The Lakers have an opportunity to prove, on Thursday, that they are the best team in the world. They are favored to do so. And if you listen to the coaching staff, they will be uniquely prepared to do so thanks to the team’s carefully cultivated meditation habits. The Laker coaching staff is focused on relaxing the players, even though one of the most consistent critiques of the team has been their occasional non-chalance. There is barely ever even the slightest shred of desperation about how they carry themselves. Not much in the way of screaming coaches or players flying off the handle. Bobby Knight is not about to walk through that door. When they lose, fans find it frustrating how the team never seems to get a quick pulse.
From Kevin Arnovitz, TrueHoop: How exceptional was the Lakers’ defensive performance on Tuesday night? The Celtics were posted an offensive rating of 77.1 points per 100 possessions — anything under 80 is pretty rare. To measure how rare, I got in touch with Neil Paine of Basketball Reference to help put Game 6 into perspective. 1,311 regular season and postseason NBA games have been played in 2009-10. On only 14 occasions has a team failed to cross the 80 points/100 possessions threshold (0.5 percent of the time).
From Kurt Helin, Pro Basketball Talk: It’s never going to be the same again. This era of the Boston Celtics — The Big Three era — comes to an end tonight. Win or lose. Things will be changing in Boston, evolving. When the Celtics went out and got Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce, everyone knew this era would be pretty short. Looks like about three years. Ray Allen is a free agent at the end of the season. Boston GM Danny Ainge considered trading him at the deadline, and at 34 you can seriously question how long a deal he should get now. He’s had a good finals, however, and based on that somebody is going to overpay. It happens every time.
From C.A. Clark, Silver Screen and Roll: That’s the 2010 NBA Finals in a nutshell. There is no valid set of rules that explains the events we’ve seen so far. There is no spoon. No matter how this series ends up, the “impossible” has already happened. Phil Jackson is currently 47-0 when his team wins the first game of a playoff series. The past 10 times an NBA Finals has been tied 1-1, the team that has won Game Three has won the series. And yet, the Celtics have never lost a Game Seven in the NBA Finals, having won seven times under those circumstances. A team has won the last two games after facing a 3-2 deficit only twice in the last 25 years. Of course, one of those teams just happened to be the Lakers. Improbable is a better word than impossible to describe these feats, as they are all stats that had to be disproven eventually. But at some point along the roller coaster that has been this series, it has been improbable that either team would win, based upon the analysis and historical data available at the time. Now, one team has to win.
From Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: Doc Rivers seems particularly upbeat and not a brand of nervous energy, it should be pointed out, as his Celtics take to Thursday’s Game 7. This could be because he’s about to set his little soldiers free, once the whistle blows Thursday night. “I’ve always thought,” Rivers said during Wednesday’s media availability session, that “Game 7 is the ultimate player game. It’s the game that all the things you’ve worked on all year, you have to do it and execute it and trust and play. You know, there’s going to come a time maybe where a timeout is important and an adjustment may be important.” Beyond that, though, the win or loss is on the players. No pixie dust here, either, Rivers pointed out.
From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: No kid stands in his driveway, counting down the seconds before he fires the jumper at the buzzer to win Game 3 of the Western Conference quarterfinals. It’s always Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Thursday’s game is, by definition, different than any other, even before getting into the whole Lakers vs. Celtics thing. Add that in, and the magnitude of the moment grows even more. To say the observing classes- meaning fans and media- are hyper-aware of it all is a shocking exercise in understatement. Not surprisingly, Kobe Bryant downplayed the significance. “I don’t worry about it too much. I just go out there and play hard. I play hard all the time, so I don’t need to do anything different for Game 7.”
From Daniel Buerge, Lakers Nation: It is almost fitting that we’re where we are now. One game for all the marbles. One game for all the glory. In the NBA’s most storied rivalry it is only fair that we get a Game 7 to decide the latest chapter in this epic saga. While the 2010 NBA season will end tomorrow night, the effects from the final game will be felt for years. When you really consider just what is at stake for both these teams, it is very overwhelming. Countless legacies will be cemented while others break down, legends may be born while goats will live in infamy. For the Lakers, there have been 104 games played in the 2010 season. There have been times when they were destined to repeat, and times where they were doomed to fail. However, none of that matters anymore because the focus now is on one final game.
From Kevin Ding, Orange County Register: The one other time in the past 16 years there was a Game 7 in the NBA Finals – another Thursday night, but five years ago – Phil Jackson wasn’t watching. He did want to watch, which is why he had the TiVo set for when the Pistons and Spurs took the court. And he did have professional interest again, having just been re-introduced as the new old Lakers coach nine days earlier. But Jackson kept an appointment he’d set six weeks earlier to be a guest at a tiny high-school gathering of maybe 200 folks in Inglewood. The event was to celebrate the book a group of Animo Inglewood Public Charter High School students – mentored by Jackson in a coaching hobby while he was unemployed – built around Jackson’s chosen theme of teamwork.
From Jeff Miller, Orange County Register: Kobe Bryant wants to win this NBA championship. Anyone who fails to realize that can’t read body language because, at this moment, Bryant’s body is using terms we simply aren’t permitted to use here. But Kobe Bryant doesn’t need to win this NBA championship. Not for any legacy, validation or argument about his greatness. Bryant’s legacy is as golden as the jersey he’ll be wearing in Game 7. He could retire during the national anthem Thursday and they’d still build him a statue outside Staples Center.
From Mike Bresnahan, Los Angeles Times: It’ll be a memorable night for the Lakers, for better or worse, with so many elements up for grabs, as if a Game 7 against the Boston Celtics needed to distinguish itself any further. If the Lakers beat their hated rivals Thursday at Staples Center, Kobe Bryant collects a fifth championship ring, tying Magic Johnson and moving within one of Michael Jordan. If Bryant can push them to one more victory, their 73rd and most important of the season, they’ll earn a 16th championship trophy, one fewer than Boston, and take some sting out of their painful Finals loss two years ago to the Celtics.
From K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune: Michael Jordan owns six NBA championship rings and his statue stands outside the United Center. Magic Johnson could carry his five rings past his statue outside the Staples Center if he chose to do so. Kobe Bryant doesn’t have a statue, which is why Thursday night’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals between his Lakers and archenemy Celtics is a prime opportunity for him to enhance his legacy further. Four NBA championships and a multitude of other team and individual honors has Bryant ticketed for eventual enshrinement in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame, alongside greats such as Jordan and Johnson.
From Dr. Jack Ramsey, ESPN.com: I’m impressed by the attitude of the Celtics. Even though they played a bad game on Tuesday and got beat statistically in every category, they remain confident. They turned the ball over, got outrebounded and didn’t shoot well, but they know if they come out and play their game on Thursday they can still be NBA champions. With Kendrick Perkins out because of his injury, it is going to be a little bit tougher for them, but I still heard a high level of confidence and togetherness from everyone I spoke to, from coach Doc Rivers down to all of the players. This is a Game 7 and you’re talking about only one game. Someone has to step up for Perkins. I think Rasheed Wallace has to be that guy. Rasheed at his best is a good post defender. He has good timing to block shots and really long arms. He has had flashes during this series where he has defended Pau Gasol and done a good job on him.
From Chris Brussard, ESPN.com: It’s all so perfect. The historic franchises. The incomparable star power. The great competitiveness. With the LeBron Watch threatening to overshadow the NBA’s Main Event, David Stern received a gift from the heavens. Four likely Hall of Famers, two other All-Stars, the winningest clubs in the sport, the greatest coach in league history, one of the greatest coaches in today’s game and colorful supporting characters named Ron-Ron, Big Baby and Donkey, are set to clash in a Super Bowl/March Madness/winner-take-all-style Game 7, and no free-agent frenzy or coaching flirtation can compare.
From Howard Bryant, ESPN.com: There are too many reasons to pinpoint exactly why the NBA season has come down to a single game for only the third time in the last 16 years. Among them are the Celtics’ no-shows in Games 1 and 6 of the Finals, which could cost them a title. The Lakers’ rise and fall in Game 4, a 96-89 loss, will not be forgotten, either, should the fourth-seeded Celtics win Game 7 in Los Angeles. Boston did that the last time these two teams played a deciding game there, also as the fourth-seeded East team in 1969. Depending on Thursday night’s outcome, certain individuals will either breathe a sigh of relief that his team picked him up when he was down, or carry for the summer and quite possibly the rest of his career the weight of not having it when the moments mattered most.
From Art Garcia, NBA.com: We’ve made it. The 2010 NBA Finals are going to the max, with the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics revving up for a what could be a Game 7 to remember. The deciding contest is Thursday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The league’s two premier franchises are no strangers to championship series going the distance. In the 12 Finals meetings between the Celtics and Lakers, this is the fifth to be decided in a winner-take-all game. Boston won the previous four in 1984, ’69, ’66 and ’62.
From David Aldridge, NBA.com: There are more and more sabermetricians who do work in the NBA, and much of it is good, but numbers don’t usually tell the story of the pro game. It has always been more art than science, more gut than rational, more jazz than classical. Improvisation is at the heart of the NBA; empiricism is a valuable concept, but still a far second in a sport where Knicks coach Red Holzman’s last-second play was called, famously, “What the (Bleep).” It is now Phil Jackson’s last-second play.
From Adrian Wojonarowski, Yahoo! Sports: These NBA Finals promised to be direct descendents of the most memorable in basketball history, the remaking and recasting of Chamberlain and Russell, Magic and Bird. History guaranteed an epic, but the present has delivered a choppy series long on blowouts and short on drama. There have been magnificent performances, genius talent, but ultimately this is a series searching to frame itself for the ages. These are a Finals desperate for a Game 7, and maybe now Kobe and Gasol, Pierce and Garnett, will transform a snarling, unkempt series into an epic.
[Note: I just received an e-mail from Eddie Maisonet of Ed The Sports Fan letting me know that he was on Homefield Sports (AM 1400 KKZZ in Ventura, CA.) talking about Game 7. You can listen to the show here.]