For All The Marbles: What’s Up In Game Seven of the NBA Finals
It was 26 years ago when the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers last squared off in a game seven in a Finals series. Boston won that series, as well as the three other game sevens that they met as rivals. LA has never won against Boston in a finals game seven.
For Phil Jackson, this is the first time that he will be playing a game seven in the finals. In all his championships with the Chicago Bulls, he always had the advantage of leading in the series before eventually clinching the championship. His first loss in a championship, to the Detroit Pistons in ’04, was the first championship series where he lost game one, and the first finals series that he and his team were the ones trailing. The second time, to Boston just two years ago, had a similar setting. While Jackson did win game one of the current series, he was never in a situation where his team was doing the catching up. Thus, Jackson is playing his first game seven in the finals.
The last time a game seven was played was five years ago, between the San Antonio Spurs and the Detroit Pistons. It was also a series that featured the last two champions of the previous two seasons, much like the one we have now. San Antonio won that series, and Rasheed Wallace, who is now with Boston, was standing on the other side of history, losing and being dethroned. He, among anyone else in the roster of players, know what it feels to lose in a game seven. This time he wants to know the feeling of winning.
Kobe Bryant calls the game on Thursday as “just another game seven.” Truth is, THIS game seven is anything but “just” another game seven. If Boston wins this series, Kobe would still be winless in a Finals series against Boston. But if he wins, the sweet revenge also brings him a championship ring closer to the man his destiny has been chasing. While he probably has five more years or so in the league, he is not taking his chances of doing the amazing some other time. If it’s now, then he will have to seize it.
While age is not much of a problem for Kobe, it is a glaring one for four people—one is wearing the same jersey like him, and the other three on the other side of the fence. Derek Fisher has been a veteran to Lakers championships in the post-Jordan era. He has authored some of his team’s game winning shots, hustle plays, and impossible situations, especially during the playoffs. And sooner or later, all that will be just a memory. For him, a sterling performance this Thursday could top all that, and forever cement his legacy as one of the best players who wore the purple and gold.
Paul Pierce said that one of the reasons why they lost the closing game for them last Tuesday is because some of them never felt the urgency of winning game six. But for him, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, it’s all about urgency, especially that age is catching up with them. They are nearing that stage that all of Boston’s Big Threes have stood on—retirement. When Bird, McHale and Parish retired, they gave Boston their last championship before the franchise went on hiatus until 2008, with the re-emergence of a new triumvirate. Hopefully, Pierce, Garnett, and Allen, as they near their retirement, can do the same for the little green leprechaun. After all, the only way for them to join the elite club of the Best Ballers of Boston is for them to win a second ring.
Boston will be one less starter in game seven: Kendrick Perkins’ knee situation could be career-ending unless he sits out the final game of the series. Doc Rivers will not risk a Willis Reed with Perkins against the possibility of keeping him stronger for the upcoming seasons where he can still be useful. But if there is anything that hurts Kendrick more than his knee, it is the frustrating fact that he can’t join the fray for his brothers in the clincher game.
Not that LA has no problems with one of their big men. But compared to Perkins, Andrew Bynum can still afford to play a couple of minutes, provide defense on the post, get some good shots, and stave off Garnett or Wallace, before sitting down. For Perkins, there’s no way he will be on the floor when game seven tips off.
The Larry O’Brien Trophy. Another championship banner. Championship rings on each of their fingers. A victory over their rival. And of course, the bragging rights.
Just so we will be reminded, all the marbles are on the line on Thursday.