Kobe Bryant scored 26 points, Pau Gasol added 17 points and 13 rebounds, and the Los Angeles Lakers emphatically extended the NBA finals to a decisive seventh game with a 89-67 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
HoopsVibe's Very Quick Call: Two days ago, Kobe Bryant demanded his teammates 'man up and play'. Well, the Los Angeles Lakers - both individually and collectively - fulfilled his request on Tuesday evening.
The purple-and-gold dominated every aspect of game six, building an early lead through tough defense, infectious hustle, and inspired play. The Celtics never mounted a serious challenge and the Lakers cruised through the second half to an easy win.
The difference between games five and six was obvious: Bryant had help. Loads of it.
For instance, co-star Pau Gasol had a double-double, but - best of all - the Spaniard imposed his will down-low; Ron Artest hit shots; Lamar Odom stopped complaining about the flu and got active; and Shannon Brown, Jordan Farmar, and Sasha Vujacic provided energy off the bench.
Two specific plays stand out. First, Artest was so confident he over-dribbled and still sank an improbable fall-back shot. Second, Farmar out-hustled Celtic Rajon Rondo for a loose ball by sacrificing his body and diving on the floor.
Bryant aside, no Laker looked confident or sacrificed in game-five.
As a group, L.A. played superb defense. They challenged every shot. They provided helped. They got stops. They won the battle of the boards. And they held the Celtics to 67 points, the second lowest total in NBA Finals history.
Meanwhile, Boston resembled a team with a one game cushion. Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Rajon Rondo were outplayed by the Lakers' big guns. The bench - which had been so effective earlier in the series - looked awestruck.
Of course, Kendrick Perkins' injury didn't help. The rough and tumble post sprained his knee early in the first quarter and never returned. His status for game-seven is unknown.
With or without Perkins, the green-and-white must re-establish their presence in the paint and show greater urgency on Thursday.
In fact, the Celtics should consider Bryant's advice and 'man up'. Or the Lakers will win what has become a one game, do-or-die NBA Finals and will hoist the Larry O'Brien championship trophy.
Got thoughts on game six? And what's your prediction for Thursday's game-seven?