Celtics lack production and direction
LOS ANGELES — The Celtics were thinking about Game 7 in the second quarter of Game 6. Last night’s beating was that severe.
When Lamar Odom picked off a Paul Pierce pass and launched it upcourt to Jordan Farmar for a fastbreak dunk, the Celtics found themselves trailing, 45-25. There were still nearly 30 minutes of basketball left.
Backs against the wall, the Lakers were as dominant as they were desperate and all the Celtics could do was watch.
Their 31-point first half effort was one short of a NBA record low. Their 67 points were not only their lowest in a postseason game, but it tied for the second-lowest Finals total since the advent of the shot clock in 1955. They were dealt one of their worst losses of the postseason, or as Glen Davis put it, “We got our [butts] kicked. But the beating was so thorough, Celtics coach Doc Rivers said, “We had enough time to get over it.’’
From the start, it was a disaster. The Celtics offense flatlined, their defense crumbled, the bench was all but invisible, their starting center left with a knee injury that could end his season prematurely. At the end of it all the Celtics went from having a chance to close out the series to an 89-67 blowout loss to reeling into a Game 7.
Seemingly in an enviable position returning to Los Angeles leading the NBA Finals, three games to two, the Celtics will now have to win the deciding game on the road, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since 1978 when the Washington Bullets went into Seattle Center Coliseum and beat the SuperSonics. The Finals have only seen four Game 7s since.
Aware of the task in front of his team, Kevin Garnett said, “We have no choice.’’
The Lakers could do no wrong on this night. They won the rebounding war (52-39). They dominated the paint (40-32). And after seemingly taking on the Celtics by himself in Game 6, Kobe Bryant found reinforcements everywhere.
His 38-point Game 5 assault bulged off the stat sheet, but his 26-point, 11-rebound, 3-assist effort last night seemed to blend in. Pau Gasol was an assist shy of a triple-double (17 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists). Ron Artest, seemingly lost the past two games, beamed himself back into the series with a 15-point, 6-rebound performance. The Lakers bench combined for 25 points and 16 rebounds. All the pieces put together were too much for the Celtics.
“They did everything harder than we did,’’ said Boston’s Tony Allen. “It’s just unusual.’’
The Celtics shot 33 percent from the floor. A sign of how futile their offense was? At the start of the fourth quarter, Ray Allen, Garnett, Pierce, and Rajon Rondo were the only four Celtics in the scoring column.
Rondo missed 10 of his 15 shots. Rasheed Wallace missed all seven of his shots including six 3s. Ray Allen led all Celtics with 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting. But the unselfishness in Game 5 was absent last night.
“We never gave ourselves an opportunity offensively because we didn’t trust tonight,’’ Rivers said. “Everybody was trying to make their own plays. You know, when we’ve done that this year, we’ve lost games. We’ve been blown out in some of those games, and if you do that against a team like the Lakers and a team like the Lakers who are really ready to play and play desperate, you’re going to lose.’’
The Celtics took their first loss midway through the first quarter when a battle from a rebound left Perkins with a strained right knee.
Perkins jumped for a rebound off a Rondo jumper and on the way down, was sandwiched between Bryant and Andrew Bynum, twisting his right knee awkwardly. He left the game at the 5:30 mark and never returned. Rivers said he was unsure of Perkins’s status for Game 7, but his teammates didn’t seem optimistic.
With the momentum of two straight wins stomped out, the Celtics’ season will come down to one game.
“Before the year I’m sure if you had asked the Lakers would they take a Game 7 at home, they would say, ‘Yeah,’ ’’ Rivers said. “They would have taken a Game 7 anywhere for the championship. And we would have said, ‘yeah,’ as well. We would have obviously loved it at home more, but we’re not there. So you know, we’re both probably in a game that we’d like to be in. If you told the teams that that’s where you had to be, I think we’d both take it.’’
Julian Benbow can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org.