BOSTON (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Lakers are one game from elimination in the NBA Finals yet are strangely confident heading into Tuesday’s Game Six.
With a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, the Boston Celtics need to win on either Tuesday or Thursday in Los Angeles to sew up their record 18th championship.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson said his team entered the finals with the home court advantage and they still have it.
“We’re going back to home court to win it,” he said Sunday night after the Celtics’ 92-86 victory in Boston. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be, isn’t it?”
Each team has won on the other’s court but in the end, if the Lakers win twice at home this week they will successfully defend the title they won last year against Orlando.
“We’re down 3-2, go home, win one game, go into the next one,” said Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who scored 38 points on Sunday. “Simple as that.”
Despite having the luxury of a second chance on Thursday should they lose Game Six, the Celtics say they are approaching Tuesday’s game like it is a winner-take-all affair.
“With the severity of the game, it’s all out on both ends, for both teams,” said Celtics forward Kevin Garnett. “This will probably be the hardest game of the season, if not of the series, if not of everybody’s career.”
Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, who scored 18 points and had eight assists on Sunday, echoed Garnett’s sentiment.
“We’re up 3-2 but the other five games are in the past,” he said. “We have to focus on one game, playing great or close to great, for 48 minutes and taking advantage of the opportunity that we have up 3-2.”
Rivers said each team has reasons to be confident heading into the season’s finish line.
“The Lakers have played the best between us to get home court advantage, but we’ve played the best all year on the road,” he said.
”So our team will be ready, and it’s going to be a hell of a challenge for us because they’re going to be great, and we’re going to have to beat them at their best.
“They’re going to be great there, and we can’t expect anything else.”
Editing by Miles Evans