This is what every kid dreams of. The biggest rivalry in all of basketball coming down to a pivotal Game 7 in the Finals, for the biggest prize in the business.
Both team's centers are banged up, one (Andrew Bynum) will play through his injuries, while the other (Kendrick Perkins) will be forced to watch his team compete from the sidelines. Not to mention Kevin Garnett's knee, Kobe Bryant's finger and knee, etc, have made this 2010 NBA Finals a battle for the ages.
The Boston Celtics have owned the L.A Lakers in the past, leading their NBA Finals series 9-2. Celtics fans believe that history will repeat itself, Laker fans believe that their Laker team is one like no Boston team has ever faced. One can't argue that the players believe the same notion.
Still, every basketball fan in the world has to enjoy the climax of the NBA Finals: the Game 7 in Los Angeles. The series has been a see-saw battle from the start, the Lakers dominant win in Game 1, to Ray Allen's performance in Game 2, to Derek Fisher's heroic performance in the 4th quarter of Game 3, to the Celtics taking Games 4 and 5 from the Lakers in Boston, to another dominant Laker win in Game 6 to set up the showdown on Thursday night.
Each team has had their fair share of trash talk about eachother. Pau Gasol has motivated Kevin Garnett with his comments that KG has slowed down, and Paul Pierce has refused to acknowledge Ron Artest as a reason for his struggles in the Finals. Kobe Bryant has appeared calm at times, notably in his post-game press conferences, but if you watch closely, you can see the pure anger, frustration, and passion bursting through his face during games. And not the same emotion you see during the season, or in any other playoff series.
Somewhere, Bill Russell and Bob Cousy, along with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, reminisce over their finals battles. Magic and Bird must talk to trash to each other every day. Kareem and Bill Walton, both UCLA products, must hate each other. Think about it, with the heavily linked history between the Celtics and Lakers, how could the first finals of the new decade not include these two teams? How could the decade not start off with arguably the biggest game in both Laker AND Celtic history?
The keys for both teams are to play with heart like they have previously in their victories at home. The Lakers need Pau Gasol to assert himself, for Ron Artest to knock down open jumpers, and for their bench to provide a spark of energy in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. The Celtics Kevin Garnett to play 3 years younger, for Paul Pierce to score, and for Rajon Rondo to shred the defense with his playmaking.
The persistence of each team through the regular season and playoffs ends here. Both teams have clearly been on cruise control to get to this point. Now is the time for both teams to push their foot on the gas as hard as they can. They have nothing to save for, no game to look ahead to. Now is the time to leave it all out there on the basketball court.
The winner of Game 7 will not be determined through statistics. Kobe Bryant may score 50 points, but that won't be the real reason that the Lakers could win. Rajon Rondo could have a triple double, and that won't be the real reason either. It comes down to who wants that title more, who absolutely despises their rival the most, and who will put the most of themselves out there to win a game.
The Lakers have not overcome the doubts of their thorough defeat in the 2008 Finals, while it may look like a 6 game defeat, it felt like a 5 1/2 game defeat, as the Lakers still have a sour taste in the mouths over the 39-point embarrassment in Game 6 of the 2008 Finals. The Celtics have been the victim of doubts all season, winning 52 games, just barely recieving homecourt in the East, and critics crowning them as the old men of the Eastern Conference. Having been picked to lose every playoff series in 2010, the Celtics have proved that they are still the class of the East, despite their regular season struggles. Having been called soft and unmotivated, the Lakers have proved that they can beat anyone when rolling on all cylinders.
The popular theme for previous NBA Finals has been "David vs Goliath", but this series has proven to be a "Goliath vs Goliath" dream matchup that will likely play out until the last minutes of the last game.
On Thursday, June 17th, history will be made. In the biggest game for each team, and the biggest game for the NBA since "Jordan's last game", who will come out victorious? The Lakers are dominant at home, only losing one game at home this postseason, while the Celtics are decisively better on the road, with the second best road record in the league this season. It's a toss up, and I'm sure David Stern will be beaming regardless of the outcome.
Peace, and much love to you.