Commentary

Celtics' troubles just multiplied

Lopsided rebounding and bench numbers add up to a Game 6 Lakers blowout

Updated: June 16, 2010, 3:16 AM ET
By Peter May | ESPNBoston.com

LOS ANGELES -- The leather lungs in the Staples Center balcony, as opposed to the texting fashionistas in the $10,000 courtside seats, had it right before anyone else.

"Boston [bleeps]. Boston [bleeps],'' the chant began, well before tipoff.

On most nights, the chant is a mere annoyance. On this night, it was prophetic.

Boston did bleep. Big-time. The Celtics went from the energetic high of arguably their best game of the NBA Finals to the utter pits after inarguably their worst, getting blown out in Game 6, 89-67, forcing a Game 7 on Thursday night.

Hey, but look at the bright side Celtics fans: Boston is 2-0 in the playoffs after it has suffered a loss by 20 or more points. Oh, and Ray Allen snapped his 3-point drought dating back to, when, mid-March? That's about it. Any time Shelden Williams has to play 14 minutes means (a) there is a serious flogging going on and (b) it is advisable to shield any loved ones in the immediate area.

[+] EnlargeFarmar & Garnett
Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty ImagesJordan Farmar was one of several Lakers reserves who provided a spark off the bench in Game 6.

Doc Rivers didn't try to sugarcoat this one. He couldn't. This was an across-the-board whuppin' administered by a very determined Lakers team, one that had had its manhood questioned after successive losses in Boston. This time, to borrow a phrase from Larry Bird, these Celtics played like sissies.

"I thought we were ready,'' Rivers said. "I thought we would play better. Obviously."

Obviously.

Let's start with the one constant in this otherwise up-and-down series: rebounding. He who has controlled the boards has controlled the game. It was never more evident than in Game 6.

The Lakers assaulted the glass like Moses Malone clones, helped a little by the right-knee injury to Kendrick Perkins 6 minutes into the game. But Perk wouldn't have made much of a difference in this game. Rebounding is all about wanting the ball, and the Lakers wanted it more. The grisly numbers for Boston: The Lakers had a 30-13 advantage on the glass at the half and a 39-24 edge through three quarters. ("Our defense was good. Our rebounding was better,'' Phil Jackson said.)

You could go through the game and pick out any number of plays that epitomized the Lakers' board dominance, but two jump out, both offensive putbacks by Pau Gasol. The first came in the second quarter when Gasol grabbed a Sasha Vujacic miss and, unguarded and not blocked out, waltzed in for an uncontested layup. The other came in the fourth quarter, when he did a rebound/dunk in almost one motion following a Jordan Farmar miss. Again, there was no resistance.

"When you outrebound a team like we did, you give yourself a huge advantage,'' said Gasol, who had a game-high 13 rebounds. "It's really important. It's something you need to control."

The final rebound totals (52-39) are a bit misleading in the sense that the Lakers basically stopped playing after building a 25-point lead through three quarters. But this is one area where men are still men and this was men against boys on Tuesday night.

"There's such a long laundry list,'' Rivers said of the many things that went awry. "But rebounding is No. 1."

The list also includes, among other things, the play of the bench. It had outscored the Lakers in four of the first five games, but it was a collective no-show in Game 6. Through three quarters, the Lakers' reserves had outscored the Celtics' reserves by the embarrassing total of 24-0. The first basket by a Celtics sub came from Nate Robinson with 9:56 to play. At some point, the bench had to score. Rajon Rondo was the only starter in the game at that point.

Rasheed Wallace went 0-of-7, six of the misses being wide-open 3s. He also stupidly picked up three quick fouls after Perkins went out. Wasn't his basketball IQ supposed to be one of his selling points? He has said he rises to the occasion when the stakes are the highest. They don't get any higher than a Game 7, and with Perkins' availability unknown, Wallace will be needed.

Ditto for Glen Davis. Where has the emotional and effective Big Baby gone? It's an article of faith in the NBA that role players tend to play better at home, but Baby has gone scoreless in the last two games, one of which was in Boston.

"We've got to get better play out of Baby, and I told him that after the game,'' Rivers said. "We do. He has to come with that same spirit he [had] in the famous Shrek and Donkey game [Game 4]. We need that again. We need that from everybody."

There were missed dunks by Williams (suffice it to say he is not easy on the eyes) and Rondo. And the missed layups? I stopped counting at eight -- Rondo had a bunch -- and that was before Tony Allen missed a breakaway and Ray Allen missed the putback. (Tony Allen finally came back and finished the play.) The final tally was 12 missed layups. The whole team shot poorly (33 percent). Through three quarters, only four Celtics even had made a basket.

"We made it tough on ourselves because we didn't move the basketball,'' Ray Allen said. "That made it tough on us. We didn't make their defense work at all and we allowed their offense to score. As much as we give them credit for their defense, we didn't do our job offensively."

Or, as Rivers said, "We never gave ourselves an opportunity offensively because we didn't trust each other." He later said he started thinking about Game 7 midway through the third quarter.

No visiting team has won a Game 7 in the NBA Finals since the 2-3-2 format went into effect. The last visiting team to win a Game 7 in the NBA Finals was the 1978 Washington Bullets. If there's one thing we've learned from the first six games, it's that there is no flow to the series. The games have been wildly different. Kobe Bryant has pretty much been the only player who has shown up for all six games. And he will be there on Thursday night, you can go to the bank on that.

Will the Celtics? Rivers noted that it was only one game. He said the same things after the Cleveland debacle at home (124-95). His team has shown a remarkable capacity to forget the last game and embrace the next game. There's only one left.

Longtime Celtics reporter Peter May is a contributor to ESPNBoston.com.

Peter May

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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