It's Game 7. We're live-blogging. I don't think I need to explain why.
Anyway, here are five keys to tonight's game, because the ABC pregame show won't tell you anything of substance. (I really want to see someone do an animated .gif of Magic Johnson talking with vuvuzelas in his hands).
I posted this earlier on Twitter, but as much as Kobe Bryant matters tonight, we know he should come through. Save for the 2006 Game 7 debacle against Phoenix, Kobe's teams haven't lost a Game 7, and save for the 2009 Game 7 against Houston, which was a blowout, Kobe's been tremendous. Therefore, the barometer tonight is Pau Gasol. This game will make a huge difference on his legacy, and he needs to come up big. He needs to be involved in the offense early and he has to be active late.
The Lakers can't change their game
Kendrick Perkins' injury throws an interesting monkey wrench into this game. Clearly, not having Perkins will hurt Boston in some ways. On the other hand, we've seen teams win big playoff games without their best players (Lakers without Kareem in 1980, Rockets without Yao in 2009), and that's because it's tough for the other team prepare for a completely different kind of lineup in one game. Rasheed Wallace offers a very different dimension than Perkins, and the Lakers haven't really had experience dealing with that.
But at the same time, it's Game 7. You are who you are. The worst thing the Lakers could do is force feed a hobbled Andrew Bynum in an attempt to weaken Boston's front line. They need to play as if Perkins is still in the lineup. Otherwise, Boston's unpredictability will mess them up.
Speaking of Rasheed...
Rasheed Wallace must play well
"You know, I don't show my whole package during the beginning of the season. If you do, then that's what's going to be in the scouting report on me. So now, come money time, it'll say that I'm going to go to the turnaround. Yeah, I'm going to turn around, but I'm going to go by you left, by you right, come with the jump hook. I told my buddy to look at it like a kung fu teacher. I might teach you the lotus and I might teach you the tiger, but I'm not going to teach you the crane, because the crane can beat both of them."
Well Sheed, tonight's a good night to whip out the crane. The Lakers haven't had much experience dealing with Sheed in combination with the Celtics' starting lineup. This is where Sheed could shine ... if he steps it up.
Lamar Odom vs. Big Baby
This is a key matchup off the bench. Whoever wins it will win tonight. I think.
And finally ...
Ultimately, this game is all about him. If the Lakers can limit him like they've limited him most of the series, the Celtics have no chance. But a lot of Rondo's struggles, particularly in Game 6, were of his own doing. He can be more active, especially off the ball in half court sets. He can be more aggressive pushing the ball, and he can be more aggressive and confident with his jump shot. He just has to step up and get it done. (Sorry, I know that sounds like Mark Jackson).
Ultimately, if the Celtics are to win tonight, they need to see the Rondo that showed up against Cleveland and Orlando. That's really the bottom line, I think.
(How many times were any of these mentioned on tonight's pregame show? None. Have I mentioned how much I hate ABC?).