The title says it all.
The best rivalry in all of sports has reached its zenith. A game seven between the Celtics and the Lakers is what David Stern and basketball purists across the nation had hoped for at the start of this season. Anyone with a pulse and an affliction for the game of basketball will be glued to their television sets tonight.
There is an interesting contrast between the two teams playing tonight. The Celtics play a more team-oriented brand of basketball, the Lakers ebb and flow are dictated by Kobe Bryant.
The whole team for Boston must contribute in order to win this game.
I fully believe that we are going to see something special from Paul Pierce tonight. Game five was great to see, and I think game 7 will be a similar performance from the pulse of this team. Rajon Rondo needs to be mindful to get Pierce involved early so that he can get into a groove. If Pierce starts hot it will open up the rest of the offense. Spacing is so important, and if Pierce can get going early it will open up passing lanes for everyone else.
I think Ray Allen needs to be special. He has proven that he likes the rims in LA better this series, tonight, he will need to love them. KG will need to be on with his long-range jumper. He needs to get Gasol out of the paint on defense so that there are second chance opportunities for the C’s. Davis will need to knock down jumpers when he gets his chance. I think that LA will make him prove he can hit a few before he sees any pressure. With Garnett and Davis possibly pulling out the bigs for LA, the second chances could prove huge throughout the game.
The glaring hole in the paint tonight for the Celtics in the absence of Kendrick Perkins will not be filled by one man. It is going to take some minutes from players who have not seen much of the floor, one who hasn’t put on a jersey in weeks. After Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis, the Celtics will need Sheldon Williams and Brian Scalabrine to step up tonight, frankly they need them to not screw up. I feel more comfortable putting in Scal before Williams personally from a pure effort standpoint. As awkward as he is he has shown in the past that his hacking mentality can be disruptive and his effort is something I believe the team can feed off of.
Rasheed Wallace could very well be the X-factor in this game. As I said earlier I see Davis getting the start tonight. However, I think Sheed’s contributions on defense will be crucial to the Celtics winning the battles down low. Wallace has proven he can play solid defense in the post and his experience in big playoff games should serve him well to keep an even keel mentally, ( even keel for him of course). The key is how long can he stay on the court and be effective. I am not as worried about the fouls as everyone else seems to be, I know I should be, but I’m not. I think the refs let the payers play a little more than normal given the levity of this game. Wallace isn’t used to playing big minutes, and this is the concern I have versus the foul-trouble argument. Back in January he was playing 30-35 minutes in games, so it can be done.
I think that Doc has done a masterful job managing his veterans minutes down the stretch of the regular season. With one game left I think he will run them all ragged. I think they are all aware of that fact. The experience on this roster should allow them to keep mindful not to get too high too early and to stay within the flow of the game.
The Celtice are 6-1 after a loss this year in the playoffs. This team needs to be resilient, it needs to be fierce, it needs an outright herculean effort from every man in green tonight. There are no more second chances, no more second guessing, no more we’ll get em next time. This is what all athletes dream about when they are children. A chance to play in this kind of game does not come along that often. You can look at the Celtics roster for prime examples. Ray Allen has never been in a game seven, nor has Garnett, not even Pierce. Not in the finals, not on this stage. The last game seven in the finals was in 2005 between the Spurs and Pistons (Wallace was on that roster), before that it was 1994 between the Rockets and Knicks.
Tonight I am looking to see the Celtics fly to loose balls, take care of the ball, and rebound. The team that wins the rebounding battle has won every game so far this series. Without Perkins this will no doubt be tough, but it can be done. Boston needs to work hard down low and make every shot difficult. The defense will need to eliminate second chance scoring from the Lakers every chance they get. The defense needs to set the tone for this team, it needs to be the focus of every Celtic to play above his ability tonight. Something special will happen tonight, history will be made, and in order for Boston to be on the right side of that, they need to play as a team.