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Game 7 Journal

   by Larry Ness - 06/16/2010

The NBA regular season consists of an 82-game schedule and its postseason will conclude Thursday night with its 82nd playoff game, as the Lakers host the Celtics in Game 7 of of the 2010 Finals at 9:05 ET on ABC. The league's two most storied franchises (the Celtics with 17 all-time titles and the Lakers with 15) meet for the fifth time in a NBA Finals' Game 7 (Boston has won the previous four), the 17th one in Finals history (home teams have won 13 of the previous 16). The date is June 17 and the city is Los Angeles.

Exactly 16 years ago on this date and in this very city, the nation was transfixed by the most famous "slow speed chase" in American history. The pursuit, arrest, and trial of OJ Simpson were among the most widely publicized in American history. The "the trial of the century," culminated on October 3, 1995 in a jury verdict of not guilty for two murders. That verdict was seen live on TV by more than half of the U.S. population, making it one of the most watched events in American TV history. The entire year and-a-half saga all began on the same day as Game 5 of the NBA Finals in 1994. You just can't make these things up!

So how did we get here? Look how many turns this series has taken. The Lakers won Game 1 impressively, 102-89 and looked nothing like the team which had been dominated by the Celtics in the 2008 Finals (Celtics won in six games, going 6-0 ATS). However, behind Allen's three-point shooting (record eight three-pointers in a Finals game) and Rondo's triple-double (19-12-10), the Celtics won Game 2, 103-94. The Lakers responded with a 91-84 win in Game 3 back in Boston, as Kobe scored 29 points, Gasol and Bynum combined for 22 points plus 20 rebounds and Fisher scored 16 points (including 11 in the 4th quarter).

That left the Celtics in a position in which they had to win both Game 4 and 5. That's exactly what they did, despite Kobe getting 33 in Game 4 and 38 in Game 5. The Boston bench won Game 4 (Big Baby had 18 points and Nate Robinson 12), outscoring LA's bench 36-18 for the game. Then Pierce (27 points on 12-of-21 FGs), the team's 56.3 percent overall shooting and Boston's' team 'D' (held LA to just 39.7 percent) were the stars of Boston's 96-89 Game 5 win. The Lakers came home for Game 6 on Tuesday under heavy criticism. Too much Kobe, Gasol was turning 'soft,' Artest couldn't guard Pierce (plus was an offensive liability), Bynum's knee was clearly keeping him form making any significant contributions and the LA bench was almost non-existent with only Odom contributing anything (and he was underachieving).

So what happened Tuesday night? The Lakers beat the Celtics by 22 points, tying the series at three-all. They held Boston to just 67 points, the second-lowest scoring output in Finals history (the Jazz scored just 54 points vs the the Bulls in Game 3 of the 1998 Finals). The Celtics fell behind early and Perkins was lost for the game 6 1/2 minutes in. Kobe was terrific (26-11-3-4 steals), Gasol just missed a triple-double (17-13-9), Artest scored 15 points (6-of-11 shooting) and Odom responded with eight points and 10 rebounds. The LA bench outscored Boston's 24-0 through three quarters, as Brown gave LA 19 minutes and a highlight-reel dunk (he played just 19 seconds in Game 5), Vujacic played 14 minutes (nine points) and Farmar played 17 minutes.

The Celtics shot just 33.3 percent as a team, a game after shooting 56.3 percent. Pierce and KB did little, while Rondo struggled with just 10 points (5-of-15 FGs). Allen entered Game 6 on an 0-16 run with three-point attempts and while he made 2-of-5, his 19 points hardly mattered. Big Baby went scoreless in 23 minutes (he did have nine rebounds) and is now scoreless over the last two games (40 minutes of playing time), since his 18-point effort in Game 4 (read that again SLOWLY!). Good old Rasheed, threw in an 0-7 effort (0-for-6 on threes) in 17 minutes, for good measure.

So after all this, the 2010 champ will be the winner of Game 7. The home team is 4-2 SU and ATS in this series and home teams are 53-28 SU (.654) and 48-33 (59.3 percent) ATS this postseason. Four of the five games have gone under this series, leaving under bettors slightly ahead this postseason, overall (37 overs, 41 unders and three pushes). Followers of the Zig-Zag theory have cashed four of five 'tickets' in The Finals but remain just 29-37 ATS in the 2010 postseason, which is minus-11.7 net games. The Lakers are favored by seven points and the total is 187 (as of Wednesday night).

Does it matter at all that the Celtics have won NINE of 11 previous matchups with the Lakers in the NBA Finals or that in four previous Games 7s, the Celtics have prevailed each time? The most recent of those previous Game 7s came in 1984 and the other three were in the 60s. Note that three of the four were played in Boston, where the Celtics prevailed by three (in OT), two and nine points. One Game 7 came in LA (in 1969) and the Celtics won that one 108-106. No real NBA fan will ever forget that game, as Wilt famously (or infamously) took himself out in the 4th quarter of that contest with an injury and when he asked back in, Laker coach Bill van Breda Kolff refused. The win gave Bill Russell his 11th title in 13 seasons and was his last game.

I mentioned at the top that home teams have won 13 of the previous 16 Game 7s in Finals history (home teams are 84-19, .816 SU in all playoff Game 7s). The three visiting teams to win were those 1969 Celtics, the 1974 Celtics in Milwaukee vs the Bucks of Kareem and the Big O and the then-Washington Bullets (now Wizards), who won in Seattle in a game in which the Sonics' Dennis Johnson went 0-of-17 from the floor! Let me also note that just four of the previous Game 7s have been decided by more than 10 points, while 11 have been decide by seven points or less.

Setting the stage for this Game 7, Boston center Kendrick Perkins will not play, as tests have revealed that he tore the medial collateral and posterior cruciate ligaments in his left knee in Game 6. That's big, as his inside presence is huge on the defensive end. Perkins' unavailability minimizes the fact that LA center Andrew Bynum has been a non-factor in the last three games, scoring 10 points and grabbing just eight rebounds. Phil Jackson owns 10 NBA titles in 12 appearances in The Finals but this is his first-ever Game 7 in 13 previous Finals. Rivers lost a Game 7 as a player with the Knicks back in the 1994 Finals but it's his first as a head coach. Ironically, rumors abound that both Phil and Doc may not be coaching their respective teams next year.

As for the players, Kobe is going for his fifth NBA title (as is Fisher), which would tie him with Magic and leave him one behind MJ (and Kareem) but most importantly, would put him one ahead of his good buddy Shaq (as well as Duncan). An LA win would also give this Laker team back-to-back titles, something accomplished by just the Lakers ('87 & '88), Pistons ('89 & '90), Bulls ('91-'93), Rockets ('94 & '95), Bulls ('96-'98) and Lakers ('00-'02) since 1970. As for the Celtics, the team's "Big Three" (Allen, KG and Pierce) plus one (Rondo), have a chance to make it two titles in three seasons.

I've won FIVE of my six sides (83%) in this series and have a 10* on the Game 7 Showdown. My final NBA Playoff Journal will be posted on Monday (by 2:00 ET), taking a looking at the 2010 postseason in 'the rearview mirror.'

Good luck...Larry

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