STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Maybe it was the home court advantage, maybe it was just pride, but the Los Angeles Lakers refused to come anywhere near being eliminated last night. They dominated the Boston Celtics 89 to 67. That ties the NBA championship series to three games each and it forces a seventh game.
NPR's Tom Goldman was at the game in L.A. Hi, Tom.
TOM GOLDMAN: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: How did the Lakers take control of this game after losing control of the previous two?
GOLDMAN: Well, you know, as this series has shown, it's been complete action-reaction. So what happens in the game before really hasnt had much bearing on the next game. As you point out, the Lakers were facing elimination and they decided that they didnt want to be eliminated.
So what they did was they listened to what Kobe Bryant has been preaching: defense and rebounding, and that what the Lakers did last night. That 67 points that they held the Celtics to, I mean thats what most teams' score in three-quarters of an NBA game. And it was the second lowest team point total in NBA Finals history. And then they out-rebounded Boston by 13 rebounds. And those two things, combined, just really shut the Celtics down.
And, you know, Steve, you can credit Kobe Bryant for helping get the team effort going early on. You know, there's a lot riding on this game. The legacy of a great player like Bryant takes a hit when he gets to a finals and doesnt win. And one could understand if Kobe came out just firing up every shot, but he didnt.
And Boston coach, Doc Rivers, praised him for that after the game.
Mr. DOC RIVERS (Coach, Boston Celtics): I think most people assumed that Kobe would come out and take a thousand shots, and I thought he did the exact opposite. I thought he came out and trusted his teammates. And every time they needed a basket in that first quarter, he made one. And the more they got it going, the more everybody got involved.
INSKEEP: Kobe Bryant was the leading scorer with 26 points, but you're saying he shared.
GOLDMAN: He definitely did, yeah. He spread it around and the Lakers responded. I mean at one point after three-quarters, the Lakers bench had outscored the Boston bench 24 to nothing - so everyone got in on the act.
INSKEEP: Wow. You know, The New York Times points out, this morning, that the Lakers came home to play underneath 15 championship banners - thats got to help you. But, of course, the Celtics have a few of those banners of their own...
GOLDMAN: Yeah, they do.
INSKEEP: ...back in Boston. What went wrong for them?
GOLDMAN: They ask the same question. Ray Allen, their guard, talked about that. He said even on the bench late in the game and then in the locker room, he and the other starters talked about what had happened. And they decided the team's abysmal showing was completely their responsibility - the starting players.
He says they put Boston in a big hole early that the Celtics never got out of. And he said - as opposed to Kobe Bryant saying everything stems from defense -Allen said it stemmed a lot from offense. Here's what he said.
Mr. RAY ALLEN (Guard, Boston Celtics): We didnt make the extra pass. Each individual tried to make the homerun play early. And starting in the first couple of quarters, you dont take tough shots, you just move the move ball around and you, you know, fund an open guy. The ball is going to find the right guy. And I think tonight, we didnt necessarily do that.
INSKEEP: Well, Tom Goldman, how are the injuries from last night's game likely to affect Game Seven, coming up?
GOLDMAN: Well, you know, Kendrick Perkins, the starting center for the Celtics, sprained his knee in the first quarter. He left the game and didnt come back and his condition will be re-evaluated today. And then Andrew Bynum, the starting center for Lakers, he's had continuing knee problems. He's got torn cartilage in his right knee. He's been playing with that. He took himself out of the game last night. In a sense, they could cancel each other out - if they're both out.
They both help their teams, obviously, but, you know, the Lakers and Celtics are going to be ready to go without them.
INSKEEP: NPR's Tom Goldman is at the NBA Finals in Los Angeles. Tom, thanks for staying up all night.
GOLDMAN: Good night.
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