By TREVOR WONG
If ever the fans, a city and a team were to come together, this was the night. With yellow Lakers rally towels waving and the anti-Boston chants starting up early and often, all was well inside and outside Staples Center – at least for one more night.
And if Christina Aguilera singing the national anthem was any indication, this night would be one reflecting a song she composed called “Fighter.”
This was a night where the Lakers would fight – they would fight for their lives, they would fight for a city and they would fight for their season.
And as Boston fans filed out of the arena early, Lakers fans hooted and hollered, anxiously waiting for the seconds to tick by so Game 6 could officially be chalked up as a victory—and to get their two free tacos from Jack-in-the-Box—that would tie up the 2010 NBA Finals at three games apiece.
As I rose from my seat to celebrate with Lakers nation and chastise all Bostonians for making the trip to Staples Center that night, I stood there knowing that this was our night.
When it was all said and done, the Los Angeles Lakers staved off elimination in Game 6 with a convincing 89-67 victory over the Boston Celtics at Staples Center Tuesday night.
After a Game 5 loss in which almost all Laker players decided to be spectators and watch Kobe Bryant almost will them to victory with his 38-point output, it was this game that he received help in the form of Pau Gasol, who ended up one assist short of a triple-double – 17 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists. It was this game that Ron Artest played both offense and defense fearlessly, giving Laker fans assurance of their prized offseason signing. It was this game that the so called “Bench Mob” gave the Lakers a boost.
And it was this game that the Lakers took a stand for themselves, for their fans, and for their city. After being outworked, outmuscled and outrebounded in Boston in Games 4 and 5, the Lakers pushed back. This time, they owned the rebounding edge 52-39 – and in a series where the team that wins that department ends up victorious, that stat could not have proved any more significant.
Now, the stage is set for a Game 7 – and yes, there is still more to be written about these two historic franchises and this historic rivalry.
It’s do-or-die, it’s all or nothing and whichever way you put it, another chapter will be completed Thursday night. History awaits and the legacy of some players will be on the line. This is what separates the extraordinary from the ordinary and this all-important game could define a career.
Bryant is chasing his fifth championship, or trying to tie Magic Johnson and his five Laker titles as well. But more than that, he is trying to beat Boston. You can bet Kobe remembers 2008 all too well and if he were to lose to Boston for the second time – and possibly last time ever in the Finals – this one will haunt him forever. Bryant could go down as arguably the greatest player to play the game – and possibly the greatest Laker ever – but coming up short twice when it counted most will be what people remember.
For coach Phil Jackson, this could be his last hurrah. Though the “Zen Master” owns 10 championships of his own, many will remember that he could not beat Boston either. But if he does, he has a chance at yet another 3-peat if he decides to return next year.
Paul Pierce will be chasing a second championship and it will be twice against the same Laker team he could be victories against – that is something former Boston greats Larry Bird and Kevin McHale never accomplished in the 1980s.
But six games and two weeks later, it all comes down to this – one game. This is one for the ages. It’s Celtics vs. Lakers. It’s Kobe and the Lakers vs. Pierce and the Celtics. It’s a rivalry renewed.
From Jerry West and Bill Russell to Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, these two teams and two franchises have brought back memories of yesteryear. And this is where both franchises expected to be at the end of the year and where both teams rightfully are at the moment.
But with all these “if’s,” Game 7 awaits. This one will be an all-out dogfight. This one is for the Larry O’Brien trophy, a championship banner just waiting to be hoisted into the rafters for one historic franchise.
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Trevor is a student at USC and works for the Daily Trojan. He is interning with the Rafu Shimpo for the summer. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Rafu.