Both the Celtics and the Lakers are banged up, but as they head into Game 5 of the NBA Finals in Boston, they're ready to give it everything they've got. They're tied 2-2, and suddenly both teams are looking at a virtual must-win. The urgency is there.
"At this point in the year, when the end is in sight," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, "it makes it a lot easier."
Finally, with a 96-89 win over the Lakers in Game 4, the Celtics have beaten the Lakers on their home floor. It was the first time since 2008, when the C's blew out L.A. in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at the TD Garden. Now, if they can win at home again, the Celtics will be in prime position to finish off this year's Finals and raise banner No. 18. Win, and the C's head to L.A. with two chances to finish the series; lose, and they hit the road desperate for back-to-back wins. Now would be a good time for the Celtics to step up in front of their home crowd.
Kendrick Perkins vs. Andrew Bynum
Quite frankly, both guys have problems. For Perkins, it's the nagging technical difficulties — with six technical fouls in this postseason, he's one away from picking up a one-game suspension. A tech in a Game 5 loss would mean the C's face an elimination Game 6 with no starting center, and that's not an appetizing thought. For Bynum, the problem is his injured knee, which he's had drained twice now during these Finals, and he's struggled to find a rhythm with the ailment. Both centers will play tentatively, each for their own reasons. Who will be more effective?
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Paul Pierce
Power forward: Kevin Garnett
Center: Kendrick Perkins
Point guard: Derek Fisher
Shooting guard: Kobe Bryant
Small forward: Ron Artest
Power forward: Pau Gasol
Center: Andrew Bynum
The Celtics won Game 4 with their bench, proving at least for now that they're the deeper, more versatile team. But can the Lakers push back in Game 5, showing that they've got some unsung heroes of their own? Who will be the Glen Davis or Nate Robinson this time? It could be Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar or even Sasha Vujacic. In this series, you just never know. There's a new hero every night. The Celtics have to be prepared to stop every Laker that comes at them, from the biggest star to the guy they least expect.