LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 15: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers goes up for a shot against the Boston Celtics in Game Six of the 2010 NBA Finals at Staples Center on June 15, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Boston's best chance to win this series has passed -- they needed to win Game 6 on Tuesday. That was when they had the momentum. That is when they were healthier. That's when they were close -- or as close as anyone gets -- to being in the Lakers' heads.
Now it's Game 7, and it is right there for the Lakers to take.
To use their momentum to take the win. To pick up the Larry O'Brien trophy and with it, exorcize some of the Celtics demons from the past. To erase the memories of 1969 and replace them with a Game 7 win.
The Lakers come in with momentum after a blowout win in Game 6, but don't think Thursday night is going to look anything like that. This is a veteran and championship Celtics team. They will not roll over. The Celtics will be focused. They will play better. They will not miss so many shots. They will not settle for so many contested jump shots.
But the Lakers have advantages tonight.
One is that Celtics center Kendrick Perkins is out after tearing the MCL and PCL in his right knee during Game 6. He will not play, and that will mean more Glen "Big Baby" Davis and more Rasheed Wallace. Both of them have had their moments this series, but neither is the consistent and physical presence that Perkins is. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum should have more room to move.
Plus, the Lakers have Kobe Bryant. Do you want to bet against Kobe with the game and a title on the line?
The Lakers know what they have to do to win -- by the Game 7 there are no new strategies. There are three key areas to look for tonight.
Which team is controlling the paint. The most overused statistic for this series has been "the team that wins the rebounding battle has won the game." It's true, but that is a result of other things, the symptom not the disease. The team that has been able to enforce its will defensively in the paint has won the games. The team that took away the easy baskets. Doing that leads to missed shots, which will mean more rebounds for a defensive team working hard inside.
Which team is getting transition baskets. Both teams play good defense, easy baskets are hard to come by. However each game one team has been able to get out and run a little. The team that can get easy buckets in transition will win the game. Look for Rajon Rondo, who did not get run a lot in Game 6, to really look to push the pace.
And which team's star will have a big night. Ray Allen has done that this series. Paul Pierce is fully capable of it. So is Pau Gasol.
But do you want to bet against it being Kobe Bryant?
This game -- this championship -- is going to turn on the little things. Diving for a ball, winning the loose ball when it is a 50/50 proposition between two teams. The team that gets the lucky bounces.
The home team often gets those bounces. And this time the home team has Kobe Bryant.
It's there for the taking, and you know he is going to grab it with both hands.