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Steve Aschburner

Kendrick Perkins' injury early in Game 6 took some wind out of the Celtics' sails.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Tough times in Game 6 don't dampen Celts' hopes for Game 7

Posted Jun 16 2010 10:43AM

LOS ANGELES -- History was not registering with Kendrick Perkins. So Glen Davis switched to theology and, after a very long Tuesday night, the Boston Celtics appeared to have some people -- or at least themselves -- believing again.

Medicine still might have more to say than either of those subjects. The condition of Perkins' sprained right knee could dictate and trump everything Thursday when Boston and the Los Angeles Lakers compete in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals. It will be the 17th time an NBA championship is decided in a seventh game, but only the second since 1994.

Four of those Game 7s have featured the Celtics vs. the Lakers, most recently in 1969 in Los Angeles (Boston won). But it was the next one -- Knicks vs. Lakers in 1970 -- that was offered up to Perkins as he hobbled down the hall toward his team's bus, his familiar stone face revealing ... well, not much of anything.

And when a trailing reporter tried to engage Perkins with the legend of Willis Reed -- the gimpy Knicks center who inspired his teammates to a title merely by suiting up and hitting two jump shots early in Game 7 of 1970 -- Perkins was unmoved.

"Nah. I don't have the slightest idea," said Perkins, whose availability for the clincher was very much in doubt. "They say we'll reevaluate it in the morning. I just got to go from there. ... It's a little lame. ... Just keep treating it, icing it. Hope it don't swell up too much. Just go from there."

On a night filled with hard lessons, the Celtics' performance in the Lakers' 89-67 rout had a definite dog-ate-our homework look to it. They came out flat and then pancaked emotionally, an off night turning grim when Perkins was fouled by Lakers center Andrew Bynum on a loose ball and landed badly near the baseline. He had to be helped to the locker room and was done for the game.

So, too, were the Celtics. Down 18-12 when Perkins left with 5:30 remaining in the first quarter, the gap grew to 45-25 barely 12 minutes later and 27 before it ended. No one was suggesting that Perkins' presence could have made the difference in a 22-point defeat, but the size void provided a glimpse of what Boston might be facing in Game 7 (unless Bynum's sore knee sidelines him as well as Perkins). The Lakers outrebounded Boston 52-39. The team controlling that category has won each of the series' six games.

"He's a guy that cleans the paint up," Boston coach Doc Rivers said of Perkins, "and not having him there made the Lakers awful long."

It also was a distraction.

"We were a little bit focused on if Perk was going to come back, instead of just continuing to play," said Rajon Rondo. "As soon as halftime came, we all just ran to the locker room and to the training room to see how he was feeling and if he was OK."

He wasn't. Neither were the Celtics.

"Perk is our enforcer," Rondo said. "He's our biggest body we have to throw out there on Bynum. He clears the paint for us. He does a lot of intangibles. He's a great shot-blocker, rebounder, and he's the anchor of our defense."

Said Lakers coach Phil Jackson: "I'm sure it had a big effect in the ballgame ... But I think our energy was good enough that it was not a matter of who wasn't there, it was about what we were going to do. We were going to determine our own fate."

Fate? Cue the Big Baby.

Davis -- a candidate to fill Perkins' starting spot in Game 7, unless Rivers opts for mercurial veteran Rasheed Wallace -- played 27 scoreless minutes in Game 6, though he did grab nine rebounds. Mostly Davis saved his best for after, turning what moments earlier had been a predicament into a positive.

"I'm too blessed to be stressed. I can't worry about that. And ... we've got a Game 7!" Davis told a steamy crush of media in the cramped visitors' dressing room. "This is not fate, this is free will. You can't pray to God and say, 'Oh God, help me and hope that we win.' God say, 'You got to go get it. Free will! You got to go get it!' That's my mentality.

"I love it, I love it. This is what it's all about. This is what you guys are going to talk about for years. You're going to remember Thursday forever. I can't wait. I can't wait to step on the floor and win here in L.A."

Stepping on the floor in L.A. and losing for the second time in three tries in this series was no fun.

Veteran forward Paul Pierce, literally cornered in the small room by a thicket of cameras, microphone and notebooks, found himself apologizing for the Celtics' lack of intensity. "We've got to understand, hey, this is the defending world champs. On their court," Pierce said. "We've got to come out a lot harder in Game 7. I promise you when I'm standing here on Thursday, you will not be talking to me about energy."

Davis was talking more about redemption and a proper ending to this Celtics saga. "You know, we went through [too] many ups and downs to lose like this," he said. "Of all the teams in the league, we were the ones who struggled, we were the ones who had the bumps and bruises. We went through 'We're old.' We went through the 'Oh, they can't play' and 'They're the fourth seed, they're gonna get beat by Cleveland and get beat by Orlando.' And we're here now, in spite of what everybody else thinks.

"So you think we're just going to let this go? No. We accept the challenge. We want it. That's point-blank simple. We could have gave up a long time ago and looked forward to next year. But no, we're here. So we're gonna take it while we're here. And understand that we've been through ups and downs. And we deserve it more than them."

The marvel of it all is that even a juicy bulletin-board clip like that -- we deserve it more than them? -- seems puny next to the motivation, drama, passion and focus already built into a Game 7.

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA for 25 years. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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