Celtics/Lakers, on to the Final Act

So we have ourselves a compelling little NBA Finals going into Game 6, don't we? Here are the two biggest rivals in the sport with a high-percentage chance of a Game 7 in the wings so long as the home Lakers hold serve Tuesday night. For the first time in four years, no one has a clue who's winning this thing. What could be better?

Perhaps some close games. While we've had some entertaining ones, none of them have come down to the wire in the final minute, although only Game 1 was a true rout throughout. It's great to see two evenly-matched teams trade haymakers back and forth, but can you remember the last time you watched an NBA Finals go for five games without a truly thrilling finish?

Every Finals has to have at least one game that has you biting your nails with the decimals showing on the line score. Even the dreary sweeps of 2007 and 2002 had compelling Game 3s that went down to the final buzzer if you can bare to remember them, or you can just trust me on this one. So here's hoping that the best finish of the 2010 NBA Finals has yet to happen.

That's not to say we haven't been entertained through five games. We saw Ray Allen knock down seven threes in a row in Game 2, setting a new record for three-pointers in a half and in a game after he knocked down his eighth. Then we saw Ray Allen disappear from the series as he missed his flight to Boston and never showed up for the middle three games of the series. Luckily for the Celtics, he will be waiting to pick them up at the airport when they return to Los Angeles.

Going back to the end of Game 2, Allen, the man known as perhaps the best pure shooter of his generation, has missed his last 18 consecutive threes. Must be a horrifying idea to think that such a terrible streak could begin during the same game that such a great record-breaking streak was going on for most of the game.

We've seen Derek Fisher take over the fourth quarter of a game the way Robert Horry used to do for the Lakers and Spurs. Not exactly a go-to guy in your fantasy league, Fish still manages to show up every so often in big spots to save the day. In Game 3, he scored 11 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. His full-throttle lay-up and-the-foul over three Celtics stands as the game's signature moment. After their three humiliating losses in Boston two Finals prior, Fisher got choked up discussing their big win during the postgame interview.

Game 4 gave us a (Shrek and) Donkey show you could bring your kids to, seriously. Glen Davis and Nate Robinson off the bench saved the offensively-challenged Celtics on a night when none of the starters could make a simple lay-up. The drool flowed from the Big Baby's chin with no remorse after his and-one putback put Boston up by 6. Climbing up on his back in that moment of glorious spontaneity was Nate Robinson, who had scored 12 points and making a pair of threes in 17 minutes off the bench. It was in the postgame press conference that Robinson noted that they must have looked like Shrek and Donkey.

For years, it appeared the only thing Robinson would ever win in the NBA was slam dunk titles. After winning his third with the Knicks this year, he was traded to the Celtics, where his Kryptonite gimmick that beat Dwight Howard in the '09 contest was given a new dimension with the green Boston jersey. As fun as he had been to watch with the Knicks, its hard to determine the substance of a player when he's playing meaningful minutes in meaningless games. In this year's playoffs, he's been playing a scant few minutes each game, but still continually getting big results and showing a fiery winner's will to win that if Knicks fans had seen, they might have noticed a little John Starks in him.

The reason Robinson gets so few minutes is because of the play of Rajon Rondo version 2.0. It's worth noting that the Lakers could not beat the Celtics with Rondo 1.0 as their point guard. Rajon may be the only Celtics starter who has played consistently up to his standards for all five games, even pulling off a 19-12-10 triple-double in Game 2.

Finally, we've seen Kobe Bryant's masterful 38-point performance in Game 5, one of the great individual efforts in recent years in the Finals. I know no one's ever made this comparison before, but it may have perhaps reminded some of Michael Jordan. His 19-point third quarter included some absurd shots, and yet one by one, they were negated by the team play of Boston (and lack of Laker defense) at the other end.

Paul Pierce could not answer Kobe with his 27, but that proved more than enough with the rest of the Big Four in double figures with him, whereas Kobe's disciples could not muster double figures except for Pau Gasol, who had 12. This led to the cutaway of Kobe walking frustrated into the locker room after the game, which looked just like the end of Game 6 in 2008, just without any confetti.

So here we are heading into Game 6 on Tuesday. The settings ideal for a seven-game thriller if only one of these meaningful games is finally due for a sweet buzzer-beater. Maybe Ray Allen needs to stop thinking and just fire a desperation heave from half-court in the dying seconds of one of these games to end his three-point drought. Maybe Kobe Bryant can get back into that zone again for Game 6, only when applied at home the crowd goes crazy, which leads to confidence for the role players, who start knocking down shots, too. Generally, this leads to your team winning.

The last question I'll pose before leaving you and concluding this scattered Finals column is this: if L.A. wins, we know who will get Finals MVP, but if Boston wins, does anyone have any idea who gets it? Pierce made a bid for it after Game 5, but it took him until Game 4 to show any life. Kevin Garnett has been quiet to ordinary for much of the series and Allen has been cold for the past three games. Rondo has been good, but not a standout and as far as I know, you cannot award a Finals MVP to a team's entire bench.

If I were Kobe, though, I would make sure that question never gets answered. Lakers in seven.

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