And so here we are, back in Boston for Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
The Los Angeles Lakers held on in a Game 5 that just about everybody in the world had to figure would go their way — teams down 3-1 at home tend to always come through.
But there were still warning signs for the Lakers, who again raced out to a huge first-quarter lead, just like they did in Game 4. L.A. blew the big lead in that game, and they blew a 19-point first-quarter lead in Game 5, but managed to win. One has to wonder if Boston can just play even in the first period whether the Celtics can pull away comfortably late.
I guess we’ll see, won’t we? Starting tonight.
9:42 All those experts who said Pau Gasol is finally getting it after Game 5? Well, Gasol’s touched it three times on the bock already and has looked as soft as ever. 4-3, Lakers.
9:05 Kobe Bryant has come to score 50, err, play. He has eight of the Lakers’ 10. 10-7.
6:31 The Celtics are 2 of 13 from the field — and are tied!
2:47 Ray Allen, who had been carrying the Celtics early, leaves after getting fouled (well, it’s not a foul I guess if it’s not called, but…) by Lamar Odom. Allen heads to locker room to get his eye looked at and suddenly, Kevin Garnett emerges, scoring six straight points, two of them on a nasty turnaround fader over Gasol. KG’s got eight points already. 20-18, Celtics.
:00 Celtics take a 24-20 lead into the start of the second quarter. Mission accomplished — they aren’t down by more than 18 points.
Before the end of the period, on the Lakers’ last possession, Bryant pulled up from 4 feet behind the 3-point line and chucked a 3. I don’t think that’s a good sign for the Lakers.
8:23 KG’s resting on the bench, Allen has yet to return, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, P.J. Brown and Leon Powe all have two fouls.
And the Celtics lead by five, with the ball. 31-26, C’s.
Which is the better team?
6:31 The things that turned the series into the Celtics’ favor early — offensive rebounding, defense on Kobe, production off the bench — are back in Game 6. The Celtics have a whopping eight offensive boards already, and they’re making the extra pass, the last two of which have gone to reserves James Posey and Eddie House. Both resulted in 3s. Celtics by their biggest lead, 38-29.
Meanwhile, Bryant hasn’t had a field goal since the first quarter.
5:28 Another 3 from Posey. Another timeout called by Phil Jackson. The Celtics lead by 14 and are bringing the house down.
Allen’s back on the bench, but his teammates are picking him up. Garnett has 10, House 7, Posey 6, Pirece 6, with six assists.
Why did I bother to mention that?
The Lakers’ scoring looks like this: Kobe 13, nobody else more than 4.
:47 Garnett is a monster inside, catching the ball deep in the post and scoring with pretty jumpers and drives. He’s hacked by Lamar Odom and puts it in, makes the foul shot and the Celtics may be starting to chill the champagne. Boston, 56-35.
Halftime Celtics, 58-35
Everything is going for Boston, which is just 24 minutes away from celebrating its 17th championship.
Of course, this is a Celtics team known as much for blowing leads as for coming back in them in this series (anybody remember Game 2?). A long way to go, but you couldn’t have asked for a better start if you’re a Celtics fan.
Bryant has just three points since the first quarter, and all of them have come on technical foul shots. He hasn’t had a field goal in more than 17 minutes.
8:48 Rondo with a three-point play a few minutes after a drive-and-dish for a 3 from Allen. Either he’s feeling much better on that sore ankle or Rondo’s just that much better at home, but he’s been fantastic on both ends of the floor tonight. 70-44, Celtics.
5:57 L.A. needed to come out in the first 6 minutes of the third quarter and make a few stops and whittle the lead down. Instead, it’s gone up as Rondo is leading the charge. He makes another ripaway steal and finds Allen in the corner for another 3. Garnett is staying aggressive as the Lakers are becoming increasingly passive. 77-48, C’s.
3:26 What a baby Gasol is. Garnett is a tough dude, but allowing him to one-arm the ball away from you? And then you complain to the stripes? Maybe that trade with Memphis wasn’t so one-sided.
2:36 Another steal by Rondo, giving him six for the game. He’s one away from tying a finals record. Celtics by 30, 84-54.
:00 (In a hushed voice) Hey, hey, Rondo drives to dish. He drives into the paint to draw the defense and kicks it to an open shooter. Like Ray Allen. Or even P.J. Brown. Or anybody. Ssshhhh. Quiet now. The Lakers haven’t figured this out yet. 89-60, Boston.
10:56 Does Kevin McHale get a fourth championship ring for shipping KG to Boston?
9:13 And another 3 from Allen, who now has 20 points. 101-70, Celtics. 101 points with 9 minutes still left. Wow.
8:40 Somebody gonna guard Ray Allen?
Then again, it may not matter. 104-70.
5:43 Tell me if you’ve heard this one before:
Allen for 3.
4:01 Kevin Garnett leaves the game to a thunderous ovation. He’s walking lightly, leaving a huge monkey on the floor. 26 points and 13 boards in a finals-clinching game. The critics can shut up now. 116-81, and it was Garnett who set the tone tonight in this brilliant Celtics performance.
2:28 Phil Jackson leaving Kobe and Odom on the floor to endure the continued embarrassment. Interesting.
:30 There’s something I’ve never seen before.
No, not the 40-point blowout.
The Gatorade shower on a basketball court.
Final Celtics 131, Lakers 92
What can you say? The better team clearly won. It’s hard to be poignant now, but you have to feel good for KG, Pierce and Allen, whose legacies as NBA greats were cemented tonight. Add the emergence of Rondo and the nice moves from the sidelines by coach Doc Rivers, and something special happened in this series.
The Celtics are back.
The Celtics are champions.
It’s their rightful place.
A nice moment between Garnett and Celtics great Bill Russell. Embracing, Garnett was telling Russell, with his 11 rings, “I got my own. I got my own. I got my own.”
And later, “I hope we made you proud.”
And then the best one, “You’ve got to tell me where to go tonight.”