LOS ANGELES -- With a chance to close out the NBA Finals in Game 6, the Celtics got crushed on the glass and the scoreboard Tuesday night, falling in an 89-67 defeat that wasn't even as close as that lopsided score might suggest.
The Lakers win tied the series at 3-3, and now, if the Celtics are going to hang Banner 18, they'll have to do it theatrically, on the ultimate stage: Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
"Before the year I'm sure if you had asked the Lakers would they take a Game 7 at home, they would say yeah," Celtics Coach Doc Rivers said. "They would have taken a Game 7 anywhere for the championship. And we would have said yeah, as well. We would have obviously loved it at home more, but we're not there. So you know, we're both probably in a game that we'd like to be in. If you told the teams that that's where you had to be, I think we'd both take it."
Game 7 is not what the Celtics wanted coming into tonight, and Game 6 wasn't what the coach expected from his team after they returned to Los Angeles with a 3-2 lead and a chance to win the title on Tuesday night. But things went bad early. The C's were already losing the battle on the glass when Kendrick Perkins went down in a heap midway through the first quarter, clutching his right knee after an awkward collision with a pair of Lakers under the basket in rebounding action.
Pau Gasol helped the Lakers control the paint -- and Game 6 -- with a near-triple-double and his presence on both ends of the floor.
Perkins' status for Game 7 is unknown. The Celtics center played in the 2008 NBA Finals with an injured shoulder, but a knee problem, especially for a big man, could be too much to overcome.
"I don't know. It doesn't look great, but I don't know," Rivers said of the injury, noting that he hadn't yet decided if Glen Davis or Rasheed Wallace would get the start if Perkins is out for Game 7. "I hope he can play. It would be tough if he can't. Somebody else is just going to have to step forward."
At this point, the Celtics need anyone and everyone to step up in Game 7. They took a royal beat down across the board from the start Tuesday night, and Ray Allen, who scored eight of the Celtics' first 12 points and looked poised for a big game in the opening minutes, pinned the loss on the starting five.
"Well, a couple of us, the starting five, we had a conversation at the end on the bench and a little bit in the locker room just now, and we take complete responsibility," Allen said after scoring 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting. "We just ‑‑ I don't know, after the first quarter I think it was 28‑18, and we just put us in such a hole early. You know, it affects our bench. We didn't give them any great rhythm, any great chemistry."
Allen pointed to a lack of ball movement and turnovers as culprits in allowing the Lakers to build the early lead.
"As a unit, starting unit, we take responsibility," Allen said. "We have to do a better job for next game."
Rajon Rondo, who went just 5-for-15 from the field, scored 10 points and handed out six assists, but failed to get to the rim on a regular basis. He said he felt that the team lost focus after Perkins went down and his absence truly impacted the Celtics' performance under the basket.
"Perk is our enforcer. He's our biggest body we have to throw out there on Bynum. He clears the paint up for us. He does a lot of intangibles," Rondo said of Perkins, his close friend off the court given the bond created by being "the other two" in 2008 who operated in the shadow of the Big Three. "He's a great shot blocker, rebounder, and he's the anchor of our defense."
Of all the issues Rivers saw, rebounding was chief among them, as he watched his team get beat to loose balls both off the rim and on the floor.
"There's such a long laundry list but rebounding was No. 1," Rivers said. "I thought we would play better, obviously. I thought they were ready. I just thought the Lakers played harder, better. They executed, they trusted more. I thought we played an individual game tonight, really on both ends."
Pau Gasol, who all but disappeared in the two of the three games in Boston, had a huge game Tuesday night, missing a triple-double by just a single assist. His 17 points and 13 rebounds helped control the paint, and his nine assists helped give the Lakers better ball movement than they've seen in a week.
Beyond Gasol's performance, the Lakers controlled the paint as a team and featured their best defensive performance of the series. Kobe Bryant scored 26 points but did more damage with his 11 rebounds, keeping balls alive and keeping the Celtics out of transition.
"Our defense was good, our rebounding was better," Lakers Coach Phil Jackson said of holding the Celtics to just 67 points.
Rivers called the game a "clunker" for the C's, and while the team is set to watch film Wednesday morning, it's hard to think they'll be able to stomach a second viewing of Game 6.
Game 7? That's guaranteed to be must-see TV.