NBA Finals: If you’re a Celtics fan, you have to like the way team is playing

By Tim Reynolds, AP
Thursday, June 17, 2010

NBA Finals: Celtics weather early storm

If you’re a Celtics fan, you have to like the way they’ve weathered the early storm.

Staples Center is still into it, of course, but the Boston bench has more than held its own on the cheerleader front.

And Pau Gasol just got his second foul after running over Paul Pierce on a pass.

Celtics 19-14, 2:15 left 1st.

A lot of contact early, as Kobe Bryant gets pulled down by Rasheed Wallace going for a loose ball a couple minutes ago.

This much is clear — you will not see tight whistles in the early going tonight.

And it’ll take time for players to adjust to that — great example came with about 7 minutes left in the quarter, when the Celtics played body-up defense against Kobe with Ray Allen on him and Paul Pierce doubling down from the wing. Bryant responded by taking a wild shot off the side of the backboard.

Earlier in the series, Allen would have been called for a ticky-tack foul and Kobe would have been on the line.

Celtics 10-9, 5:55 left in the opening quarter.

It was Rasheed Wallace, as expected, at center for the Celtics in place of the injured Kendrick Perkins.

Lakers went at him right away on the first possession, and ‘Sheed stood his ground.

There’ll be a feeling-out period for the first few minutes, but things should settle down quickly. Another good sign for the Lakers: Derek Fisher just hit his first 3-pointer of the series to get the Game 7 scoring started.

Lakers owner Dr. Jerry Buss and coach Phil Jackson ought to get together and coordinate things with the U.S. Golf Association.

In short, they should want the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach every year.

Golf’s national championship started today at Pebble, just a couple of Tiger Woods drives (more or less) from Staples Center. It’s the fifth time the Open has been at Pebble, the others being 1972, 1982, 1992 and 2000.

In ‘72, ‘82 and ‘00, the Lakers won the NBA title.

In ‘92, it was the Chicago Bulls — Phil Jackson’s Bulls.

Good omen for the Lakers.

Never doubt a great player.

That’s why Dwyane Wade thinks Kobe Bryant will have just enough tonight to win his fifth title.

No animosity toward Boston, considering the Celtics ousted Wade’s Miami Heat in the opening round of these playoffs, but Wade says that he believes a Game 7, at home, for all the marbles could bring out Bryant’s greatness.

“It’s going to be up in the air,” Wade was telling The AP earlier today. “I want to say L.A. because they’re the home team and I think Kobe is a great player and with the other talent around him they can will themselves to a win, but I really don’t know. Boston has shown they can win on the road and they’ve shown if they can stick around, it’ll be a battle, but my gut feeling says L.A. pulls it out.”

Wade also says the Kendrick Perkins injury situation — Boston’s center is a no-go tonight because of a knee injury suffered in Game 6 — is more significant than a lot of people realize.

“People say, well, they have more offense with Rasheed Wallace out there, but the defense that Perkins plays on Pau Gasol, the screens he sets, the toughness that he brings to the game is going to be missed tremendously,” Wade says. “That’s one thing, if anything, they had over the Lakers was their overall grit and they’re losing a big part of that in Perkins.”

Lakers guard Derek Fisher started his day early. BlackBerry in hand at 9:14 a.m. Los Angeles time, to be precise.

“Drive for 5,” he wrote on Twitter.


More Twitter fun: Kim Kardashian, the sister-in-law of Lakers forward Lamar Odom, announced she had “Army Green” fingernail polish on earlier today. Since that’d be construed as Celtic Green, Kardashian asked her 3,866,624 followers if she should paint them purple or gold. (An hour later, she posted a picture of newly done purple nails, as did sister Khloe, otherwise known as Mrs. Odom.)

Purple nails. Also self-explanatory.

There were Tweets-a-plenty as the day rolled along about Game 7, including:

Rajon Rondo: “Its now or never”

Nate Robinson: “Closer to my dreams is reality today”

And Chris Bosh, who will try to move closer to a championship when free agency starts in two weeks: “Game 7 tonight! This is going to be a game that everyone remembers forever.”

Tonight’s officials, and there should be no shock over these selections, are Joe Crawford, Dan Crawford and Scott Foster.

Joe Crawford had the foulfest disguised as Game 1.

Dan Crawford worked Game 3, also won by the Lakers. Foster had Game 4, when the Celtics prevailed.

It’d be stunning if the referees did anything differently tonight than in any other game this season (except maybe give a tiny bit more leeway on things like double-technicals and the like), but because every aspect of a Game 7 in the finals gets dissected 78 different ways, here’s how the Celtics and Lakers have done with those three whistleblowers this season:

Celtics with Joe Crawford — 6-4 overall, 2-2 playoffs, 1-0 finals.

Lakers with Joe Crawford — 9-2 overall, 3-2 playoffs, 0-1 finals.

Celtics with Dan Crawford — 6-5 overall, 2-1 playoffs, 0-1 finals.

Lakers with Dan Crawford — 6-3 overall, 3-1 playoffs, 1-0 finals.

Celtics with Scott Foster — 6-4 overall, 2-1 playoffs, 1-0 finals.

Lakers with Scott Foster — 7-1 overall, 4-1 playoffs, 0-1 finals.

It’s here.

Game 7. Lakers-Celtics.

Those few words ought to be enough to send shivers up and down the spine of any basketball fan.

This season that started with 30 title hopefuls 234 days ago comes down to this, two teams, 24 players, a slew of future Hall of Famers, and one gold trophy that’s going to be smudged with fingerprints of joy in about three hours.

It’s the first time Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant have been part of a Game 7 in the finals. Which shouldn’t matter whatsoever, although it’s become a big story line the past two days. (For comparison’s sake, Kevin Garnett is 3-0 all time in Game 7s.)

Here’s what Jackson was saying an hour or so ago, in his final pregame news conference of the season: “I’m keyed up. I mean, I think it’s natural to be keyed up. But I think every final game has its own level. But I don’t think it’s any more than normal about a game that has as much importance as this has.”

And when he walked into Staples Center tonight, the Celtics’ Paul Pierce said, “It’s what you all wanted, right? Lakers versus Celtics. Game 7. All the marbles, baby.”

All the marbles, indeed.

Tip-off, a few minutes away.

will not be displayed