Lakers Force Game 7 With Blowout Victory Over Celtics
Well, Artest painted a masterpiece Tuesday night at the Staples Center. And so did Pau Gasol and some other Lakers not named Kobe Bryant.
Bryant led the Lakers with 26 points, but he got plenty of help in a 89-67 rout over Boston that tied the NBA Finals at 3-3. A good bit of that assistance came from Gasol, a forward who had 17 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists and Artest, a forward who shot 6 of 11, including 3 of 6 from three-point range, for 15 points and played solid defense.
It was Artest who cinder-blocked two foul shots with 43 seconds left and his team trailing by five in Sunday's Game 5 92-86 loss, pretty much eliminating any chance of a Lakers win.
Artest redeemed himself early in Game 6, scoring 10 first-half points while hitting a pair of three-pointers. Bryant, who had 15 points in the first half as the Lakers led 51-31, said Artest getting in a "rhythm'' really helped the team's hot start.
Several Lakers came up big Tuesday to help Bryant. It was a quite a contrast to Game 5, when Bryant, with 38, scored 44 percent of his team's points.
Hero of the Day
Bryant has put himself in position for his second straight Finals MVP if the Lakers can win Game 7 at home Thursday.
Bryant, averaging 29.5 points in the series, only needed to score 26 Tuesday. But he grabbed 11 rebounds and played a steady floor game.
If the Lakers win Thursday, Bryant will collect his fifth championship. That would leave him one behind the six Michael Jordan won with Chicago. And everybody knows about all those Bryant-Jordan comparisons.
With 5:30 left in the first quarter and the Celtics trailing 18-12, Boston center Kendrick Perkins, while battling Andrew Bynum for a rebound, crumbled to the floor with a sprained right knee. Perkins was carried off the court and into the locker room by Glen Davis, Shelden Williams and Brian Scalabrine.
The injury seemed to take the life out of the Celtics. They were outscored 33-19 the rest of the first half to fall behind 51-31 at intermission. Without Perkins, the Celtics were outrebounded 30-13 in the first half.
Perkins was ruled out for the game at halftime. He will be re-evaluated Wednesday, and it will be determined if there's any chance of playing in Game 7.
After Perkins went down Tuesday, the Celtics, who got a team-high 19 points from guard Ray Allen, never had a chance.
Outside the Box
How hard is it to win a Game 7 on the road?
The Celtics might be aging, but even they have no player who was older than 5 the last time it happened. That was 1978, when Washington won at Seattle.
Granted, there haven't been a tremendous number of Game 7s since then, but they've all been won by the home team. Boston beat the Lakers in 1984, the Lakers topped Detroit in 1988, Houston beat New York in 1994 and San Antonio defeated Detroit in 2005.
The Celtics no doubt would prefer to look at it as being 2-0 on the road in Game 7 in their Finals history. They beat the Lakers in 1969 and Milwaukee in 1974.
Key Coaching Decision
Sure, Bryant's 38-point effort in Game 5, including 23 in a row, was pretty awesome. But the Lakers lost.
After that game, coach Phil Jackson said the Lakers wanted to "ride a hot hand'' with Bryant, and stopped short of saying they didn't play as a team. But Jackson smartly changed his tune before Game 6.
Jackson stressed to his players they needed to be more team-oriented. After Bryant, the next-highest scorer in the Game 5 defeat was Gasol with 12 points
"There's too much individual action,'' Jackson said before Tuesday's game. "There's got to be more team play on the offensive end.''
His players listened immediately as the Lakers took their 51-31 halftime lead. In the end, Bryant was needed to score just 29 percent of the Lakers' points for the game.
You Had to be There, Part 1
The Kiss Cam showing during Lakers home games on the video board is always a lot of fun. Throughout the playoffs, there's been a running gag in which Dustin Hoffman is shown along with his wife, Lisa Gottsegen.
Hoffman has put a Kobe Bryant mask over his face while kissing her. He's put in vampire teeth and mockingly bit her neck.
Hoffman actually didn't get a Kiss Cam appearance Tuesday, but this is Los Angeles so a suitable star was found to take his place at the end. Shown was Christina Aguilera, who sang the national anthem and later earned a big kiss from husband Jordan Bratman for the video board.
You Had to Be There, Part 2
Don't let Shannon Brown's no-show in the dunk contest last February during All-Star Weekend fool you. This guy really can dunk.
The Lakers guard had two impressive dunks in the third quarter. The best was when Gasol threw him an alley-loop late in the quarter and he rammed it home from the right side with one hand.
With the game out of hand in the second half, Brown gave the Lakers fans a reason to stand other than to take photos of celebrities with their cell phones.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson