LOS ANGELES - Buckle up, Boston and L.A. These epic NBA Finals are going to Game 7.
Kobe Bryant made sure of it, with plenty of help from the rest of the revitalized Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant scored 26 points, Pau Gasol added 17 points and 13 rebounds, and the Lakers emphatically extended the series to a decisive seventh game with a 89-67 victory over the Boston Celtics in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
Ron Artest added 15 points for the Lakers, who stared down elimination by jumping to a 22-point lead during a dazzling first half. While limiting Boston to the second-lowest scoring performance in NBA Finals history, the defending champions stretched the Finals to the limit for the first time since 2005.
A champion will be crowned Thursday night at Staples Center.
Ray Allen scored 19 points for the Celtics, who took an ugly pratfall on the verge of winning their unprecedented 18th title. It turns out their longtime rivals are still quite serious about earning their 16th championship.
Two years after the Celtics ended the Finals with a 39-point blowout of the Lakers in Game 6, Los Angeles turned Game 6 into a long nightmare for Boston. Only Utah’s infamous 54-point performance against Chicago in 1998 was worse than this offensive disaster, which included 33 percent shooting and a 52-39 rebounding advantage for the Lakers.
“We did a great job,” Bryant said. “We have to come with the same energy, the same dedication to defense (in Game 7).”
Bryant grabbed 11 rebounds, and Gasol led the Lakers with nine assists in a remarkable bounce-back game for Los Angeles, which dominated from the opening minutes by vacuuming up rebounds and playing relentless defense. The Lakers’ bench took care of the rest, outscoring Boston’s reserves while the Celtics failed to make a run.
“Our defense was good, our rebounding was better,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
“It’s really a high-tension situation,” added Jackson, a 10-time champion who has never coached a Game 7 in the Finals. “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.”
These rivals have played a Game 7 four times in their 12 previous finals meetings, with Boston winning all four.
Boston at L.A. Lakers, 6 p.m. Thursday, Ch. 4