Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Are you ready for Game 7?

So, the NBA finals have been as advertised. Closely contested, hard fought, and it has come down to the seventh and final game. I'd be lying if I said I was surprised. I anticipated the Celtics stealing one of the first two in LA, and also thought the Lakers would get one back in Boston.

Typically, in a game 7, the team with the best player at home, will win the game. But these finals have been anything but typical. While it would easy to predict a Lakers victory in game 7, I tend to think both teams have an equal chance.

The keys for Boston are simple. They need to rebound better than they did in game six, they need to get a high quality performance from Rajon Rondo, and they need two of their "big three" to show up. None of these things happened in game six. The Lakers dominated the glass, Rondo looked terrible, and only Ray Allen had a good game. If you are a Boston fan, you are feeling pretty good because it's doubtful that these players will do the same thing two games in a row.

The keys for the Lakers are not as simple. They are not going to be able to count on Boston playing like they did in game six. The Celtics looked slow, tired, and to be honest they pretty much looked like they threw in the towel after Kendrick Perkins went down. The Lakers are going to have to continue the defensive effort that started their early spurt in game 6, and continue to efficient on the offensive end, which is not easy against this Celtic team.

Key players for the Celtics in game six are Rondo, and Kevin Garnett. Garnett is going to have to play greater minutes than he's used to, whether Perkins can go or not. Garnett is going to have to play like he did in Boston. Rondo looked nothing like the guy who ran roughshod over the Eastern Conference in game 6. He's going to have to simply, be Rondo. Penetrate and dish, get going in the open floor, and bring the energy his team needs him to bring.

For the Lakers, it comes down to Ron Artest and Lamar Odom. I'm not concerned about Gasol, he'll be ready to play. Artest is going to have to be in his "comfort" zone out there. He doesn't have to shoot like he did in game six, but he needs to be a viable option and play with confidence. He looked completely lost in both games 4 and 5 in Boston. Lamar Odom is going to have to come up big again. He had a nice, although not dominant game six, and this is what the Lakers need from him. With the injury to Bynum severely affecting his play, Odom is going to have to play more minutes and he's going to have to play inside on stronger players like Garnett and Davis.

The injury to Perkins to the Celtics is a bigger blow than Bynum's to the Lakers. The Lakers have played without Bynum for significant stretches both during the season, and he has been limited almost the entire playoffs. Perkins is Boston's best post defender and one of their top two rebounders. Without Perkins in the game, and signs point to him not playing at all, the Celtics vaunted depth along the front line does not look nearly as scary.

I am having a tough time calling this game. I really think if there is a team, who can win a game 7 on the road, it's this Celtics team. They are smart, experienced, and tough. They will be up for the challenge even without Perkins. However, the Laker team showed in game six that they can play great defense as well, and if they defend it's going to be tough for Boston to score with them.

My pick is the Lakers, for the following reason. When the Lakers played very poorly, on the road, with no one but Kobe showing up, they were still within six points (with a few minutes to go) of the Celtics who were playing great on both ends (shooting 56% from the field in game 5). However the Lakers were still in the game. Turn the tables around to Tuesdays game, and the Celtics didn't show up for game 6, and the Lakers blew them out of the building.

If both teams play their best, or both teams play poorly, I have to give the Lakers the advantage in either scenario. So, therefore I see the Lakers claiming another title, giving Phil Jackson 11 overall, and Kobe Bryant his fifth. Could I be wrong? Of course I could.

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