It's all you could ever want out of a basketball game, right?
Sure, if you're a fan watching on TV, or a media member who loves a spectacle. But if you're down in the trenches fighting this war? Not so much.
"I'll let you guys all enjoy that," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Tuesday after his Celtics lost Game 6, 89-67, at the Staples Center. "Like I said, I'm sure we'd both take it. I'm sure it's not what we wanted, either one of us. But it is here, and it should be great. I hope we embrace it. It should be a lot of fun."
Rivers isn't really into the historical stuff — at least not right now, anyway, while he's still got a game to win. He's leaving that to the media and the fans.
And by golly, we're going to enjoy it.
This is the fifth time in NBA history that the Finals have ended with a deciding seventh game between the Celtics and Lakers. And Boston, behind the historical dominance of Bill Russell, Larry Bird and their outstanding supporting casts, won all of the first four.
In 1962, the Celtics came back from a 3-2 series deficit and won Game 7 at home, needing overtime to do so. Russell was heroic in the deciding game, pulling down 40 rebounds, and the Celtics etched their name in NBA Finals history with a 110-107 win.
In '66, the Lakers battled back from a 3-1 deficit in the Finals to force a Game 7 in Boston. The C's got out to an early lead in the deciding game, the Lakers battled back down the stretch and, in the end, Red Auerbach's boys prevailed in a 95-93 squeaker. It was Red's last game as an NBA coach — fitting that he went out as a champion.
In '69, the Celtics again fought back from down 3-2, forcing a Game 7 showdown with the Lakers' Big Three of Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor. The C's won 108-106 to clinch an NBA championship on the road, but the media in L.A. bestowed MVP honors on West in a losing cause.
In '84, the headliners were Bird and Magic Johnson, but it was Cedric Maxwell who stole the show in the winner-take-all seventh game. The Celtics' power forward unleashed a near-triple-double with 24 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, and Boston took care of business at home, 111-102.
Historically, the Celtics have dominated.
But now these Celtics and these Lakers have a chance to write their own history.
For Phil Jackson, this is the 13th Finals in his 21-year career as an NBA head coach, but his first Game 7. He has no idea what to expect, but he's willing to proffer a guess.
"It's really a high‑tension situation," the Zen Master said. "Players have come down to putting a lot on the line at this particular point. A lot of times it's not about the coaching at that point. They've already got it in them. It's about who comes out and provides the energy on the floor and plays the kind of game and dictates the kind of game they want to dictate."
Both teams have been through a lot in this series. The Lakers have coped with the injury of Andrew Bynum; the Celtics will have to move on without Kendrick Perkins. The Celtics have dealt with the inconsistency of their aging Big Three; the Lakers have been left wondering who, if anyone, besides Kobe Bryant will show up from night to night.
But the past is now the past. The future is one game, winner take all, loser go home.
"I'm hoping both teams play great and the best team wins," said Rivers. "And I'm hoping that's us. The effort is going to be great by both teams. It's really going to come down to the trust. It's going to come down to the execution. You know, one team will do that and one team will question it at some point in the game. We'll see."
Oh, we will. All of America will.
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