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Celtics Seek to Close Out Series on the Parquet

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Los Angeles Lakers (2-3; 14-6) at Boston Celtics (3-2; 15-10)
NBA Finals Game 6
Postseason Game #26 – Home Game #14
Tuesday, June 17
9:00 PM ET
TV:   ABC
TD Banknorth Garden
 
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The series shifts back to Boston with the Celtics in less than optimum shape.  There are a lot of issues with the Celtics that may have an effect on game 6.  First is health.  Perk is still questionable for game 6.  He was supposed to get an MRI on Monday but with the plane not leaving LA until evening, that was not possible.  The Celtics missed Perk in game 5 as the Lakers were able to get to the hoop at will and the Lakers' bigs had their best games of the series.  If Perk can't play, it would seem that Doc should play either Powe or Big Baby who can also defend the paint physically.  
 
The health of Rajon Rondo is also a factor.  He played just 14 minutes in game 5 and was fairly invisible.  Paul Pierce hasn't shown any ill effects of his knee injury, but the long flight back to Boston may have an effect on that and the other injuries.  Ray Allen left right after game 5 due to a health issue with his daughter.  Reports are that Ray will play, but will his mind be on the game?   You can't blame him if he is preoccupied with the situation with his daughter. 
 
Another factor will be fatigue.  The Celtics were scheduled to leave LA in the morning, but as of 5:30 PM, they still hadn't left due to mechanical problems with the plane.  They won't get in until very late and that may have an effect on them.  In the meantime, the Lakers got off on time and would have more time to rest after arriving.  The schedule for the finals was ridiculous with 3 days between days in LA but only 2 for the games where they also had to travel. 
 
 Judging by the officiating in game 5, the league would love this to go 7 games so the Celtics may also have to play against the refs along with the Lakers.  KG got in early foul trouble and was never really a factor in the game.  Hopefully he will bounce back and have an MVP-like game as they will need him, especially if Perk can't go again in this game.  
 
The Celtics are within 1 game of the championship that they have played all their careers chasing.  It is hard to picture them not being focused in this game.  They are playing  Game 6 for the 17th Championship on 6/17.  Hopefully that is an omen and the Celtics can pull off a win tonight in spite of all the things going against them.  They are so close they can taste it.  Now is the time to take a big bite and make it happen.  
 

Probable Starters
PG:   Rajon Rondo vs Derek Fisher
SG:   Ray Allen vs Kobe Bryant
SF:   Paul Pierce vs Lamar Doom
PF:   Kevin Garnett vs Vladimir Radmanovic
C:     Kendrick Perkins vs Pau Gasol *
*I am listing Perk as the starter out of wishful thinking.  If Perk can't go, either PJ Brown, Big Baby, or Leon Powe will get the start in his place. 
 
Key Players


The Celtics Big Three must live up to their billing and take over this game, especially if Perk can't play once again.   All 3 must set the tone defensively as well as being aggressive going after rebounds and loose balls.  They must come out of the gate strong and not allow their team to get in a hole in this game.  They have played their entire careers to get to this point and now they must prove themselves in order to get their rings.  Ray may be a bit preoccupied with his son in the hospital, but KG and Pierce must take over the game. 
 


The Lakers big 3 all stepped up in game 5 to force the series back to Boston.  Odom and Gasol stepped up for the first time in the series and that was probably the result of the absence of Perk in the paint.  Can they play that way two games in a row?  They need to if the Lakers expect to win.  Kobe must also step up and put the team on his back if he wants to force a game 7. 

Keys to the Game
Play 48 Minutes   Have the Celtics had even one good quarter this series?   They need to come out focused and take the game over right from the beginning.  They also must keep their intensity throughout the game and not let the Lakers go on a run. 

Defense    Defense will determine the winner of this series.  The Celtics have the better defense, but they haven't always played it.  In game 5, they let the Lakers shoot 46% and in their other loss, they let the Lakers shoot 44%.  If the Celtics can hold the Lakers under 41%, they will win the game.  They have played tough defense in spurts but also have had let ups.  They must play tough in your face defense from start to finish. 

Rebound   The Celtics must battle on the boards and limit the Lakers second chance points.   In game 5, they were out rebounded by 3.  They must fight for every rebound.  Once again, this may be a result of not having Perk in the center to box out, allowing his teammates to grab rebounds.   They must crash the boards on every missed shot and not allow the Lakers to get tip ins and second chance shots. 

Ball Movement
The Celtics have to work their offense and move the ball to find the open man.  They must also look to get the ball inside and not rely on quick jumpers.  If Doc uses Sam  at the point, he has to set up the offense instead of shooting every time down.  When the Celtics each try to do it on their own and settle for quick jumpers and too many 3's,  the offense suffers.  They must play team ball and try to get to the hoop.   

X-Factors
Focus and Intensity  I can't picture the Celtics not being intense and focused in this one, but they have to come out focused from the start and play aggressively.   The team that is more focused and more intense will come away with the win. 

Bench Play   Especially with the injury problems, the Celtics bench must once again step up and produce. 

Home Court  The Crowd must be in the game and take away the Lakers focus right from the beginning.  No matter what is happening in the game, the crowd must be loud and be the Celtics 6th man.       

Officials
  The officials can affect the flow of the game by calling quick ticky tack fouls on the Celtics as they did in game 5.  If the league wants a game 7,   the Celtics may have to beat the Lakers and the officials.