Keeping Score

Game 7: An Epic Close to Celtics-Lakers Series?

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Well, we got what we wanted. And tonight’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics is just what this series needed: one last chance to mint this year’s Finals as one of the greats.

Because so far, it isn’t. Despite the intensity on the floor, and the back-and-forth series leads throughout the first six games, the 2010 NBA Finals have a glaring hole: a bite-your-nails, down-to-the-wire finish.¬† The closest game was Game 5, a 92-86 Boston win. The average margin of victory throughout the series is nine points. Boston’s meek showing in Tuesday’s Game 6, a 89-67 Lakers blowout win, has left many fans sour. We’re all chomping for a meaningful buzzer shot.

The last two Game 7s were relative clunkers. In 1994, the Houston Rockets beat the New York Knicks, 90-84, in a game best known for the horrific 2-18 shooting night turned in by Knicks guard John Starks. In 2005, the Spurs beat the Pistons 81-74. I’m not even going to dodge my memory, or search Google, for details of that one. When a team only scores 74 points in a basketball game, it’s never great.

At least Los Angeles has a history of hosting tight Game 7s. In 1988, the Lakers edged the Detroit Pistons 108-105. Check out the 8:50 mark of this clip. With Detroit down three points with two seconds left, the cameramen, the Lakers bench, and a few crazed fans started pouring onto the court while Detroit’s Bill Laimbeer tried to inbound the ball for a last second shot. I still don’t understand why this scene never created more of a stink. Today, pundits would have been apoplectic that the court wasn’t cleared, or that the Lakers weren’t hit with a technical foul.

The Lakers and Celtics staged a doozy of their own in 1969. With the Lakers holding a 103-102 lead¬† with over a minute left, Boston’s Don Nelson grabbed a loose ball at the foul line, and launched a shot that hit the back of the rim, rose into the air and fell through the net. The celebratory balloons tied to the ceiling were never unleashed. Boston’s 108-106 road win gave Bill Russell’s Celtics a 7-0 record against the Lakers in the Finals.

This time around, we don’t really care which way the ball bounces. We just want similar suspense.