As if there was any doubt, the NBA got its way Tuesday night in Game 6 of the NBA Finals. And by getting its way, it could only mean getting a Game 7 involving perhaps the two most storied franchises in the game.
Now this isn't to suggest that the NBA did anything to make it happen. That was the Los Angeles Lakers. They did things in their89-67 pounding of the Boston Celtics not seen since Game 3. Or even longer. They jumped for rebounds, passed inside for the score, played defense and forced several jump balls.
Thursday's Game 7 at the Staples Center will be the first since San Antonio beat Detroit in 2005. Before Tuesday night, the Celtics were 11-0 when leading a finals series, 3-2.
The Lakers won in all the key areas.
--Points in the paint, 40-32.
--Second-chance points, 15-6.
--Bench scoring, 25-13.
While Kobe Bryant, as usual, was the archtect of the offense with 26 points, he got plenty of help. Pau Gasol scored 17 and grabbed a game high 13 rebounds. Even spotty shooter Ron Artest scored 15 points on six-for-11 shooting. Lamar Odom fell short of a double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Not to overlook Bryant's total contribution he also had 11 rebounds.
The Celtics were led, if you can say anyone led them, by Ray Allen's 19 points. Paul Pierce scored 13, Kevin Garnett got 12 and Rajon Rondo 10.
As if being dominated wasn't bad enough for the Celtics they lost center Kendrick Perkins to a right knee sprain early in the first quarter. His condition will be re-evaluated on Wednesday.
Laker center Andrew Bynum, who has been playing with a torn meniscus in his knee, started strong but also ended up back in the locker room in the third quarter. He did return to the bench with a large bag of ice on his knee. Bynum played 18 minutes and had two points and four rebounds. In Game 5 he played more than 30 minutes and had only two points and one rebound.
There was no immediate update on his condition or availabiity for Game 7.
The Lakers really won the game in the first half stretching a 10-point first period lead to a 20-point halftime advantage. The Celtics could never get closer than 14 in the second half. The Lakers made it clear that they were actually willing to leave their feet for rebounds taking a decided 30-13 edge at the half.
Gasol, with a very tepid performance in Game 5, had eight first-half rebounds, with Bryant getting seven and Lamar Odom six.
Once the Lakers upped their lead to 25 after the third quarter the 18,997 in attendance were just as ready to call it a night as the Celtics, who were well resigned to their fate.
Going into the game it's almost as if each coach had a look into the future. Or maybe it was the fact that they both knew there was validity to the fact the Celtics were 1-7 in road close-out games the past three seasons. These playoffs they lost road close-out games to both Miami and Orlando.
Celtics Coach Doc Rivers, perhaps fearful of what would become reality later in the night, was speaking from the perspective of an underdog. He tried to explain the pychology of playing a Game 6 as if it were a Game 7.
"Teams tend to say that (gthey played like it was a Game 7) more after they they win Game 6," Rivers said before the game. "And when they lose Game 6 they're saying, 'Well, not really.' . . . We just want to avoid another game. We want to avoid a Game 7. But the Lakers have the same urgency to play another night. I think you're going to see bpoth team's best tonight."
Meanwhile, Lakers Coach Phil Jackson had the correct feeling of optimism.
"I have a good feeling they're going to come out and play," Jackson said. "They're anticipating the energy that they have to have in this kind of game. They know they have to carry the energy."
Forty-eight minutes of basketball later, actually it might have been only 18 minutes when the Lakers led by 20, both coaches had their answer.
And if you're a Laker fan you really liked that answer.
Game 6 final: Lakers 89, Celtics 67
The Lakers were faced with a must-win situation in Game 6 of the NBA Finals at Staples Center on Tuesday night, and they did that and more to even their best-of-seven series and three games apiece.
Behind a dominating effort from all corners, the Lakers routed the Celtics, 89-67, controlling the pace of the game, ruling the boards and completely shutting down the Celtics' bench to set up a deciding Game 7 on Thursday night.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 26 points, Pau Gasol added 17 and Ron Artest scored 15, and the Lakers got substantial contributions from reserves Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown, and Sasha Vujacic when it mattered.
The fourth quarter was played only as a formality, with the Lakers leading by 25 after three periods.
After three quarters, the Lakers bench had outscored Boston's, 24-0, an emphatic answer to questions about the Lakers depth that were raised while the Celtics won two of three games in Boston to take the series lead.