Ten thoughts from a Game 6 blowout that will not be played as part of the video highlight package before the Hall of Fame induction of Shelden Williams in 2022.
1. This is as close to good news as you're going to get -- if you had to lose a Game 6, this was the way to go. I'm serious about this. Much easier to bounce back after a blowout than a close loss. If the Celtics had battled for 48 minutes and wound up losing 92-90 I would have been terrified about Thursday night. An emotionally drained, older team on the road in a Game 7? No shot. But this is the kind of loss that has no hangover effect for a team that's been around. The Celtics might very well lose Game 7, but if they do, I suspect it'll have nothing to do with what happened in Game 6. By the time we get to the first "Knight and Day" promo during Game 7, the 89-67 Game 6 torching will long be irrelevant.
2. If you looked at Rajon Rondo's line -- 10 points, five rebounds, six assists and two steals -- you might think he played an OK game. Not a masterpiece, but not a disaster. The truth is that he was terrible on Tuesday, the worst game I can remember from Rondo in a couple of years. Completely out of rhythm. Tried forcing the issue when he shouldn't have and was passive when he should have attacked. He shot 5-for-15 and it felt like 5-for-25. Easy to point fingers at the bench, but the blame starts with Rondo for this loss. He, more than anyone else on the team, sets the tone on both ends of the floor. When he's going well (Games 2 and 5), they win. When he looks like an overwhelmed D-League guy on a 10-day contract, there's a pretty good chance Michael Finley is going to get to play some garbage-time minutes. Little early in Rondo's career to play the legacy card, but the unquestioned breakout star of the 2010 postseason will have to take a serious hit if he's lousy again in a Game 7 loss.
3. Sure sounds like no Kendrick Perkins for Game 7. Obviously if you had to pick a starter to remove Perk would be the guy, but this could be a legitimate game-changer. All the stuff we always go to when we list Perkins' qualities -- leadership, an enforcer, does the dirty work, tough interior defense, a true team-first guy -- are accurate. He'll be missed. He brings an attitude to the job that is contagious. Classic intangible guy. At the very worst he's a 7-footer who could've banged Bynum around for 25 minutes on Thursday.
4. So the question is this: Rasheed Wallace or Glen Davis in the starting lineup for Game 7? My vote is for Big Baby — Why? He'll rebound, and I think he'll beat Bynum and Pau Gasol down the floor a couple of times — but I bet Doc goes with Sheed. More size and his ability to hit the 3-pointer will bring Bynum out and maybe give the Celtics a chance to get to the basket. And Wallace does a nice job on Gasol, and I imagine would shift over to him once Odom enters the game. Doc did choose Davis over Wallace to start in place of Garnett following the suspension in the series vs. Miami (which seems like six months ago), but I'm not sure that means much at this point.
5. The four bench heroes in Game 4 (Nate Robinson, Tony Allen, Big Baby and Sheed) combined to score eight points in 76 total minutes in Game 6, or three more than Marquis Daniels scored in his four minutes on the floor. This was the Bad Nate that we were waiting for, taking eight shots (four 3-pointers) in 15 minutes. If I'm Doc I wouldn't play Nate more than five minutes in Game 7. The risk far outweighs the reward. Play Rondo until he drops. Big Baby has not scored since Game 4, and Rasheed missed all seven shots (all with no defender within five feet of him) in his 17 minutes. I'm not going to say that Sheed authored a first-class mail-in job on Thursday, but here are his stats from Game 6 projected to 48 minutes.
Zero points, zero assists, 0-19 FG, 0-17 3-point FG (Larry Bird attempted eight 18 3's in 1,480 playoff minutes from 1981-83), 11 fouls and a plus-minus of minus-30.
He's had a nice run over the past six weeks, but all that good will will be toast if he bombs out again on Thursday. The "Rasheed knows when to turn it on" angle is swell, but the second it turns out to be false, people are going to remember the six-month nap Sheed took from November to May.
(And why was Rasheed in the game at all once the outcome was decided? With no Perkins for Game 7, is it really worth risking leaving Wallace on the court to pick up T No. 7? He should have been at the hotel by halftime.)
6. Everyone has been waiting for the Big Three to all play well in the same game in this series, and you could argue that it happened in Game 6. All were short of vintage, but for the first time in the finals the three best players on the court for the Celtics were Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Can they combine for somewhere in the mid-50 point range in Game 7?
7. If the Celtics win Game 7 and none of the serious MVP candidates (Pierce, Rondo, maybe Garnett) have a great game, I'm actually OK with Kobe winning the award. He's been that much better than any other player in the series. If Kobe tears his ACL 30 seconds into Game 1 the Lakers get swept, right? That's not the case with any other player on either team. I've never been next to the idea of giving the MVP to a guy on a losing team, but Kobe would be a deserving pick, provided he doesn't shoot something like 4-for-18 in Game 7. He was 1998 Jordan in Game 6, scoring when needed but making sure everyone got their touches. I still can't believe that I thought LeBron was a better player a month ago.
8. Why was Doc playing Pierce, Garnett, Ray Allen and Rondo deep into the fourth quarter? Was there even a shred of evidence in the first 36 minutes of Game 6 that any kind of serious comeback was in the making? Why risk any chance of injury? Odom fell into Garnett's knees with 4:14 left and the Celtics down 84-59. Unless I'm mistaken, and the old MTV Rock N' Jock 25-point shot was in play, there isn't a whole lot of benefit to having any A-listers in the game at that spot. When the game ended, the five Celtics on the floor were Nate-Finley-Williams-Daniels-Big Baby. Those five should have played the entire fourth quarter. Can't imagine any coach equaling Doc over the first five games, but his fastball was just a couple of mph slower on Tuesday.
(And if my life was on the line and I needed someone to sink the 25-point shot? I would choose either Jerry West or Dean Cain. I think Dean hit three of them in 1992, the same year he nearly stole Brenda from Dylan during his four-episode arc as Rick on "90210". Of course, West received an Emmy nomination two years earlier for his harrowing portrayal of a Vietnam vet connecting with long-lost son Greg Evigan in a very special episode of "My Two Dads." The point is that you really can't go wrong with either guy.)
9. Hey, two games in a row without the refs ending up on center stage. So why I do I have the sinking feeling that we won't see Joey Crawford, Mike Callahan, Derrick Stafford, Monty McCutchen, Joe DeRosa or Ken Mauer in Game 7? You can almost smell an Eddie F. Rush, Bennett Salvatore and Greg Willard trio butchering the most important NBA game in years on Thursday night. Huge ratings await, so if I'm David Stern I make damn sure every aspect of the game that I can control has the best possible people doing their jobs.
10. I picked the Celtics in seven before the series started and I'm going to stick with them. I keep going back to the idea that they are 4-0 in games that they have had to win in this postseason (Game 4 vs. Cleveland, Game 6 vs. Orlando and Game 2 and Game 5 in this series). No Perkins is a worry, but Bynum looked gimpy throughout Game 6 and I can't imagine he'll be feeling a lot better two days later. It really comes down to this: I'll take The Big Three and Rondo over Kobe, Gasol, Artest and Odom. I don't trust Artest or Odom in a Game 7, and I could see a frustrated Kobe trying to force the issue without the same individual success he had in Game 5. This group of Celtics knows how to win a game like this, and has no problem trying to do it on the road. Probably it's a coin flip, and Kobe could score 48 points and win the game all by himself (again, only guy in the series that can be said about), but I think 26 points from Pierce and a 16-10-8 game from Rondo get the Celtics to No. 18.
Celtics 98, Lakers 96 (OT)