The Lakers hit the Celtics in the mouth in Game 6 on Tuesday night — literally, in fact, as Rajon Rondo took a hard elbow from Ron Artest. The C's also got hit below the belt, as Kendrick Perkins took a big blow to the knee and won't play Thursday. But now, more than ever, is the time for the Celtics to bounce back and prove they can still win the big one.
For the fifth time in NBA history, it's Game 7 between the Celtics and Lakers. Savor this.
When and Where
Celtics at Lakers
Thursday, June 17, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Staples Center, Los Angeles
Head to Head
The beauty of this rivalry is how evenly matched it's been, right? Once again, the Celtics and Lakers are all square — they split their regular-season matchup 1-1, and now they're dead even again in the NBA Finals, 3-3. With two teams this good, it's a shame that one has to lose. But the Lakers have home court for the ninth and final meeting between the two teams this season, so the ball's literally in their court. Not that it matters — these two squads split 2-2 in Boston and 2-2 in L.A. this season.
Rasheed Wallace vs. Andrew Bynum
This is assuming, of course, that Wallace gets the start, and assuming also that he's matched up with Bynum and not Pau Gasol. Needless to say, the Celtics have a lot of questions to answer about how things will shake out on Thursday night, and they're not answering them publicly. But one way or another, Rasheed will get a chance in Game 7 to prove to the world he belongs. After all the criticism he got this season from the media and fans alike for his performance in Boston, a huge Game 7 performance would be the ultimate last word.
Does he have one great game in him?
Point guard: Rajon Rondo
Shooting guard: Ray Allen
Small forward: Paul Pierce
Power forward: Kevin Garnett
Center: Rasheed Wallace
Point guard: Derek Fisher
Shooting guard: Kobe Bryant
Small forward: Ron Artest
Power forward: Pau Gasol
Center: Andrew Bynum
- The Celtics? 67 points in Game 6 marked their lowest point total ever in an NBA Finals game. Their previous low was 81 in Game 3 of the 2008 Finals, also a loss to the Lakers.
- Ray Allen had 19 points in Game 6 on 7-of-14 shooting, 2-of-5 from 3-point range. He hit a 3-pointer with 7:36 left in the first quarter, snapping a streak of 18 consecutive misses from downtown.
- Rajon Rondo has 213 assists in these playoffs. He has led the NBA in postseason assists in three straight seasons.
- Phil Jackson now has 224 career wins in the NBA playoffs. He holds the record for most postseason wins coached in North American professional sports, one ahead of former NHL coach Scotty Bowman's 223.
- Pau Gasol had 17 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists in Game 6. He was one assist shy of the Lakers? first Finals triple-double since Magic Johnson in Game 5 of the 1991 Finals (16 points, 20 assists and 11 rebounds).
- Kobe Bryant has 648 points in these playoffs. He has led the NBA in postseason points in three straight seasons.
Black and Blue
- Kendrick Perkins has a sprained MCL and PCL in his right leg. He will not play.
- Marquis Daniels played four minutes in Game 6 of the Finals, the most action he's seen since the concussion he sustained in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals.
- Rasheed Wallace has battled back pain for the last two weeks.
- Andrew Bynum left Game 6 early in the second half and didn't return. He's been fighting a knee injury throughout this postseason, and the Lakers remain cautious with his minutes.
- Lamar Odom battled flu-like symptoms earlier this week.
Before the Celtics do anything, they need to put the past behind them. Then they can focus on the future. The ugly lack of effort early on in Game 6, the despair at losing Kendrick Perkins, their helplessness to put a dent in the L.A. lead after halftime. It's over now. The Celtics have to focus on Game 7 and Game 7 only. Can they get big performances from their Big Three? Will Rajon Rondo run wild again? Will either Rasheed Wallace or Glen Davis step up? These are the questions we wonder about every night with this Celtics team, but now they matter more than ever.
The Celtics have to leave it all on the floor for one last game.