NBA Finals - Game 7
Thursday, June 17, 2010
TV: ABC; Radio: WEEI
Venue: Staples Center
It's crazy to think that one game - one 48-minute game - can hold so much weight. For two teams and their respective fan bases, the last nine months of undying interest and dedication will ultimately be defined by what unfolds tonight, in Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals. Tonight is everything. And with that in mind, I propose a toast:
Here's to the 2009-2010 Boston Celtics; to the ups and the downs, the incredible highs and the dispiriting lows; to the near apocalypse(s), and the magnificent transcendence to the current playoff success; to Doc Rivers, for never ceasing to believe in his team; to the 23-5 start and the 27-27 finish, which continues to help us appreciate what might seem like an unfathomable playoff run; to Tom Thibodeau and his beloved defense, which will be missed; to Rajon Rondo's first All-Star appearance and his ascension into the conversation of best young point guard in the league; to Ray Allen, for his professionalism amidst the trade rumors; to Paul Pierce overcoming his injuries and capturing that three-point shootout; to watching Kevin Garnett play basketball healthy again; to Kendrick Perkins, whose season was unfairly cut short by one game; to Rasheed Wallace, Perk's likely replacement. Here's to his 72-10 talk, which certainly provided some food for thought, and reminded us all never to get too far ahead of ourselves. And here's to perhaps the most unique season of any single Celtic. I can't remember ever loving and hating a player simultaneously the way I loved and hated Rasheed. Here's to Glen Davis, for overcoming that punch of his, accepting a more limited role, and providing us with some truly memorable moments; to Eddie House, who I hope gets another ring for his regular season contributions if victory is indeed in the Celtics' future; to Bill Walker, for that wealth of potential, that hopefully comes to fruition one day; to Lester Hudson; to Nate Robinson, for finally buying into the defense and helping us make it this far; to Tony Allen, for finding that ever allusive consistency, and for providing that tenacious defense we love so much; to Shelden Williams, for filling in while Davis was out; to Marquis Daniels, for coming here via free agency instead of a trade, so that we were able to retain Tony Allen; to Michael Finley, for not complaining about not playing in the playoffs, despite the fact that he came here to play in the playoffs; to Brian Scalabrine for being 'Scal'; to Danny Ainge for putting it all together; to the owners for putting winning as their highest priority; to Mike Gorman and Tommy Heinsohn, who I would give anything to listen to tonight; to Gino; to the Heat, Cavaliers, Magic, and Lakers for proving to be worthy opponents; to winning, despite being the underdogs; and to the fans, for their loyalty, heart, and passion.
It's been a heck of a season, and a championship is all that's left.
So finally, here's to Game 7 - to a night we'll hopefully always remember, for all the right reasons.
Celtics: Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rasheed Wallace
Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Referees: Joey Crawford, Danny Crawford, Scott Foster
Keys to the Game
Rebounding: Shocking, I know. But the stats on this one don't lie. The team that has won the glass has won each game in this series. Besides defending the likes of Gasol and Bynum, the loss of Perkins will most likely be felt here, yet all is not lost. Statistically, Id like to think Rasheed can give us anything Perk can, but he's hauled in more than five rebounds in these playoffs just once (Game 2 of these Finals when he had seven boards). However, hopefully his likely increase in minutes will spur a more concerted effort on the glass.
But it can't just be Rasheed. Paul Pierce has recorded seven or more rebounds eight times in these playoffs, and Rajon Rondo is always a threat on the boards and needs to be in this game. Hey, if he wants to go all historic triple-double on us and gobble up like 20 rebounds all by himself, I'd be cool with that. Wouldn't you? Your primary rebounding candidates tonight will be Garnett, Wallace, Glen Davis, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo. And I suppose we shouldn't count out Ray Allen completely, either.
A Good Start: Much like winning the rebounding column, the team that has led at the end of the first quarter has won every game in this series. And this is not the time for a historic and overly dramatic/gut wrenching/pulse pounding comeback. The Celtics need to set a specific tone early - one that emphasizes defense, rebounding, and a transition game resulting from those defensive stops and rebounds.
Rasheed Wallace: Chris Forsberg stole a little bit of my thunder here, but with good reason, as there's a whole lot riding on Rasheed's play in tonight's game. While some of his value might lie in his versatility and his ability to potentially drag either Andrew Bynum or Pau Gasol out of the paint, Wallace can't be afraid to park his butt down low and go to war in the paint on the offensive end. I feel like that was the 1,086,356,256th time I've written that this season. He's shooting a rather meager 4-17 from three-point nation in this series, which might hopefully make the paint seem just a tad bit more alluring. His defense will be vital as well, as he's been one of the Celtics' best options against Pau Gasol, hands down. But perhaps 'Sheed's first and foremost objective this evening is to not pick up early fouls that force him back to the bench. He needs to be on the floor, plain and simple. We had the Brian Scalabrine/Shelden Williams debate yesterday, but ideally, neither will be needed tonight. The C's need to ride Garnett, Wallace, and Davis for as long as humanly possible. Hey, it's only 48 minutes. Hopefully they can cut it.
Paul Pierce: If you read this website on a consistent basis, you know how appreciative I am of Pierce and what he brings to the court. I like to think at this point that I understand Pierce's game, and perhaps more importantly, his own understanding of the magnitude of games like tonight's. His tendency to assert himself in his team's most important games is not an illusion. In fact, come back this weekend and I'll show you firsthand. With that in mind, I personally am predicting a standout game from Pierce tonight. Heck, if you told me Pierce is going to win this thing for the Celtics at the buzzer, I wouldn't doubt you in the least.
Team: Without a doubt, the Boston Celtics have so far been the best team featured in these 2010 playoffs. The pressure of winning never falls on the shoulders of one man alone with this group, and that rare trait must continue to ring true tonight. We need to see a team effort on the glass, a team effort defensively, a team effort offensively, a team effort in transition, a team effort opening this thing up, and a team effort closing this thing out.
So, for the final time this season: Let's Go Celtics.
Who Will Win Game 7 Tonight?
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