LA Lakers-Orlando Magic
John Carroll, Scouts Inc.
The NBA Playoffs started back on April 17th and they will end tomorrow night with a Game 7 in the NBA Finals. This is the first time since 2005 when the Pistons faced the Spurs that we will have a Game 7. Unfortunately for the Celtics the home team has won 13 of the last 16 Game 7’s. After tomorrow night, either the LA Lakers will have won back to back championships or the Celtics will have won two of the last three NBA Finals. Game 7 will come down to the simplest things. Who plays the best defense, who rebounds the ball and who can make shots. Although it sounds incredibly simple a Game 7 will come down to these basic things. Both the Lakers and the Celtics know everything there is to know about each other. There will be no secrets tomorrow night. I expect to see one of the best games of the NBA season played out on one of the biggest stages ever. The two best teams in the NBA playing one game for all the marbles. David Stern could not have written a better script.
Game 7 Adjustments
The Lakers have been dealing with Andrew Bynum’s knee injury during the entire playoff series. Now it is the Celtics turn to deal with an injury. Kendrick Perkins sprained his knee in Tuesday night’s game and will probably not be available for Game 7. The Celtics challenge is daunting because Perkins is their most physical inside player. Without Perkins available for Game 7 the Celtics will lose his defense, toughness and rebounding. Their will be numerous questions facing the Celtics. How many minutes can they get out of Rasheed Wallace? Can they get a big effort from Glenn Davis or will the pressure get to him? Should the Celtics think about going small and force the Lakers to match them? Rasheed played 17 minutes off the bench in Game 6, went 0-7 from the field, and grabbed 3 rebounds. Big Baby played 27 minutes, went 0-3 from the field and grabbed 9 rebounds. The Celtics will need more from these two post players to make up for the absence of Kendrick Perkins. Perkins is the one Celtic starter that many people take for granted. That may not be the case now as the Celtics prepare for the most important game of the season.
We talked about the Lakers defense and how bad it was after Game 5. They were a completely different defensive team on Tuesday night. The Lakers held the C’s to only 67 points on 33 % shooting from the field. The 67 points scored by the Celtics was their lowest total ever for the franchise in the NBA Finals. The Lakers put extreme pressure on the basketball, held Paul Pierce to 13 points, limited Rajon Rondo’s effectiveness by playing off him and daring him to shoot. The Lakers clogged up driving lanes, were quick to the ball, fought hard over screens and trapped the ball when necessary. They not only utilized their length in Game 6 but they were much quicker to the ball and their rotations were early and precise.
The rebounding game will be big again in Game 7. The Lakers dominated the glass in Game 6 winning the war on the boards 52-39. Every game that has been played in this series has been won by the same team that has won the rebound game. REBOUND will be written on the white boards in both locker rooms before Thursday night’s game. The team that wins the glass will win a NBA Championship.
Phil Jackson did a masterful job, getting his team back on track offensively in less than 48 hours. The Lakers offense looked completely different. Kobe Bryant only took 19 shots and was a facilitator on offense. He picked his spots, driving the ball to the rim when it was there or getting to his sweet spots for jumpers. The Lakers moved the ball with a purpose within their triangle offense. They trusted each other, shared the ball and made the extra pass to the open teammate.
It is impossible to say that in Game 7, Ron Artest will bury the outside shot like he did last night. However it is safe to say that the Lakers need to play offensively the same way they did last night. They need a balanced scoring attack to defeat the C’s. They need to give Gasol a high number of touches and he needs to be extremely aggressive. Artest and Odom need to assert themselves within the Lakers offense and not settle for jumpers. They need to mix in post up/isos with drives from the perimeter in order to give the Lakers hi percentage scoring opportunities.
The Laker bench was huge in their ability to win Game 6. At the end of the third quarter the Laker bench had outscored the Celtics bench 24-0. Lamar Odom, Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, and Sasha Vujacic all made meaningful contributions. They outhustled and outworked their opponents when they were in the game. They brought high energy yet were able to keep their emotions under control and were very effective. The bench could be one of the deciding factors in Game 7. The Lakers are playing at home and that is a huge bonus for role players. Star players seem less effected whether they are at home or on the road. In a game with as much pressure as there will be Thursday night, it is a big advantage for the LA Lakers bench.
Prediction: Celtics win Game 7.