LOS ANGELES -- Here's the dream scenario for Celtics fans: His team up by one point, Kobe Bryant bricks a long jumper, giving the ball back to the Celtics with 11 seconds left in the game. Doc Rivers -- master of the inbounds play -- calls timeout. Rajon Rondo passes it into Paul Pierce, who waits as the Celtics run staggered-screens for Ray Allen. Allen is covered, so Pierce dribbles, steps back, and drops in an 18-footer as time expires.
The Celtics are NBA champs.
I got the idea for this little blog entry from colleague Bob Ryan, who pointed out that out of the 12 Finals games the Celtics and Lakers have played in the last three years, we haven't really seen any had-to-be-there's. The best game of the dozen was probably the Celtics' comeback from 24 points down in Game 4 of the 2008 Finals, but that game was really only good for Celtics fans, and the Celtics won that game by seven points. We've yet to see any last-second, last-possession, wow-that-was-incredible finishes.
The hype leading up to Game 7 Thursday night is deserved. The Celtics and Lakers are the league's two most decorated franchises, together accounting for more than half (32) of all championships won since the NBA's inception. Bryant is the league's best closer. Rondo is the league's most promising young point guard. And Kevin Garnett, Pierce, and Allen are three of the most recognized names in the sport.
But as was the case in Game 6, the games between the Celtics and Lakers have been artistic duds. The Celtics and Lakers have each won six Finals games against each other since 2008, with the average margin of victory in those games a ho-hum 11.1 points. This series, the Celtics have wins of 10, 7, and 8 points, while the Lakers have margins of 13, 7, and 22.
Fans aren't exactly glued to their seats until the end. But maybe this one will be different. Maybe this will be one of those transcendent moments in sports. The two stars in this series are both embracing the moment, just in different ways.
Says Pierce, "I love the fact that I get to play against the Los Angeles Lakers in a Game 7 on the road. I love the fact that if I don't win multiple championships that I probably won't be mentioned amongst the other guys in Celtic history that's done it before. That type of stuff motivates me."
Bryant, who apologized for being a "buzz kill" about Game 7 last night, was equally unresponsive today. When asked if Game 7 meant "everything" to him, he replied with a , "Yeah, sure." When pressed, Bryant said, "It's Game 7. I don't know what to tell you."
Make no mistake, Bryant will show up. Lakers coach Phil Jackson has already cautioned his team about "watching" Kobe too much. The question is, will Game 7 finally be the game everyone at home is watching until the end?