What a difference returning home makes. For the Lakers, it meant a huge turnaround in their defensive intensity as they manhandled a sluggish Boston from the outset and whooped their tired looking butts for four straight quarter in an emphatic 89-67 game 6 win.
Kobe had his usual night for the Lake Show, scoring 26 points while adding 11 boards, and he had major help from Pau Gasol who chimed in with 17 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists, but it was the offensive touch of Ron Artest that proved the difference in this game.
Wait, did I just say offensive touch of Ron Artest?
That would be a resounding yes as Artest managed to shrug off a disappointing Finals performance up to date with a 15 point offensive explosion that puts head coach Phil Jackson one game closer from his next ring and also into his first game 7 Finals appearance of his storied coaching career.
"Our defense was good, our rebounding was better," Jackson said.
"It’s really a high-tension situation," added Jackson, a 10-time champion. "Players have come down to putting a lot on the line at this particular point. It’s not about the coaching at that point. They’ve already got it in them. It’s about who comes out and provides the energy on the floor."
The second best road team in the regular season, the Boston Celtics were a jumbled mess on the offensive side Tuesday night. Their stars were mediocre at best with Rajon Rondo’s 1-8 shooting performance leading the way to ineffectiveness for the Eastern Conference champs.
"I thought we’d play better, obviously," Boston coach Doc Rivers said. "I thought we were ready. … We played an individual game tonight on both ends. We never gave ourselves an opportunity offensively, because we never trusted each other. Everybody was out to make their own place."
The pivotal game seven is Thursday night and it will be the fourth time that the Lakers and Celtics have faced each other in this type of situation in their storied histories with Boston winning all four. But don’t think that the Lakers are going into the game with anything less than supreme confidence they can pull this out.
"We want to carry everything we did tonight to [Game 7], and then I think we’ll be in a very good place to win," Gasol said.