NBA Finals Tonight: The X-Factors For The Lakers & Celtics In Game 7
If you’re a fan of the NBA—or even if you don’t care that much about basketball—this year’s NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics has been a gift to you. The NBA’s biggest rivalry, on the grandest stage, has come to a Game 7 where the winner will take all.
But who’s ready to bring home the NBA title? Here are three factors both teams will need to address in order to win the final game of the year.
Los Angeles Lakers
1) Lamar Odom: Odom is going to have to be Lamar and not Mr. Kardashian off the Laker bench in this game! He hasn’t played to his potential, only averaging 7.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and shooting only 1-7 from behind the arc. Fortunately it hasn’t put the Lakers out of the Finals—yet. If Odom can clean the glass off the bench with the loss of Kendrick Perkins and stretch the floor with his outside shooting, the C’s will be in a world of hurt as they’ll suffer migraine headaches trying to match up with the Lakers.
2) The Bench: There were two different benches in game 6 and game 5 for the Lakers. They soundly thumped the Celtics bench in game 6 and starred in “Disappearing Acts” in game 5. They have to play well in game 7 as a unit on both sides of the floor as the Celtics will be leaning a little bit more on Nate Robinson, Glen Davis and Tony Allen since Perkins is out. As long as they don’t get plowed as they did in game 5, they should keep the Lakers around or ahead during the late 3rd and early 4th quarter stretch where Bryant usually rests.
3) Kobe Bryant: This is Kobe’s series to lose. He’s shot masterfully and shown why he is widely considered the best player this generation has seen since Michael Jordan. He has a killer instinct and will have to be Charles Manson with the basketball on Thursday night in order to further distance himself from LeBron James in the realm of today’s players and close the gap on Michael Jordan historically. The truth of the matter is that Kobe doesn’t have to go berserk in order for the Lakers to win. If his shooting is solid and he becomes a playmaker for three quarters before attempting to rip out the Celtics guts in the fourth, Kobe will get his fifth ring. 25-6-7 is a feasible stat line that will give the Lakers the victory and earn Kobe another Finals MVP trophy.
1) Rasheed Wallace/Glen Davis/Kevin Garnett: Losing Kendrick Perkins puts a lot of weight on this front court trio. They certainly can’t expect Pau Gasol to have another game like he did in game 6, so they will have to keep Gasol and a 75 percent Bynum off the glass while attempting to not give the refs a reason to blow any whistles that could put either of them on the bench. It’s going to be tough, but they will have every opportunity to show how tough they really are.
2) Rajon Rondo: Rondo’s play has been quite exceptional. But in order to get past the Lakers and hoist the trophy, Rondo will have to beyond exceptional. He’s managed to miss several layups that he will have to make in game 7. Careless turnovers are a mandatory death sentence. Missed free throws will scoop the last bit of dirt onto the casket. It’s really that simple. Rondo has to play near perfect basketball in order to get his second championship ring.
3) Ray Allen: Which Ray Allen will we get in game 7? Will we get the record setting shooter who will force Fisher and Bryant to respect his jumper? Or will we get the complete 180 he took in game 3 and stink up the entire court. Probably neither extreme, but whichever way Allen leans will be what separates a team lifting a trophy Vs a team lifting their baggage onto the bus after the loss.
The Prediction: The loss of Kendrick Perkins may be too much of a burden for the Celtics to overcome both mentally and physically. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum should lunch on the fact that the extra body and six extra fouls are no longer a factor. If Lamar Odom puts up anything decent, the Celtics will be in a world of hurt. If the Celtics were at full strength, I would have stuck with my “Celtics in 7″ prediction. But with the loss of Perkins combined with a Kobe Bryant who is playing like a famished savage looking to get his first taste of victory, I just cannot see the Celtics winning game 7.