Mike Dunleavy, former coach and general manager of the Clippers, is The Times' guest analyst on the NBA Finals. Dunleavy has coached four NBA teams — the Clippers, Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks and Portland Trail Blazers. He was NBA coach of the year in 1999 with Portland.The Lakers could have been deep-sixed Tuesday night. Instead, they've got a Game 7.
Los Angeles came out as a team on a mission and, with the help of Kobe Bryant making tough shots from the get-go, sent the message there was no way they were going to lose that game.
Ron Artest broke out in the first quarter, Pau Gasol returned to form, and the Lakers' defense was stellar throughout. Meanwhile, Boston's bench, which was so instrumental in Game 4, generated no production.
Game 6 held true to form in that the team that won the first quarter and the rebounding battle won again. That's been the case in every game this series. The Lakers' bench also outperformed the Celtics, whose reserves scored most of the points in garbage time. They still were outscored by a dozen.
Now, for just the third time in 21 years, the Finals will be decided in seven games. The last time that happened was in 2005, when San Antonio beat Detroit. In 1994, Houston went the distance to beat New York. In both instances, the home team prevailed.
The last time a defending champion lost the NBA Finals on its home floor was in 1989, when Detroit completed a sweep of the Lakers.
Things will be a lot tougher for Boston if the Celtics don't have Kendrick Perkins, even though he doesn't necessarily put up big numbers. He clogs the middle, keeps people from getting good low-post position, blocks shots, intimidates shooters, and patrols the paint. He's a very good defender with a strong body and quick feet.
Don't read too much into Game 6 being such a blowout. It's to be expected that the Lakers came out with an impressive performance. They were at home in a must-win situation.
In fact, in many ways, the fact that Boston lost so badly might have been better emotionally for the Celtics than a close loss.
Watch for Game 7 to be a much closer game that will come down to the wire. These don't come around too often, and Thursday night's showdown promises to be memorable.