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LOS ANGELES -- The official word on Kendrick Perkins came from Doc Rivers, who said "it doesn't look great" for the Celtics to have their starting center available for Game 7.
The unofficial word came from a well-placed Celtics mole, someone in the know who was a heckuva lot more definitive: "He's done."
On a night when Bill Russell walked out in disgust early in the fourth quarter, unable to watch his old team take such a brutal beating, another important big man in green was a goner much, much earlier.
Perkins' knee buckled as Andrew Bynum came over his back going for a rebound midway through the first quarter, and the NBA Finals suddenly took a sharp turn for the worse for the Boston Celtics in an 89-67 loss Tuesday to the Los Angeles Lakers that forced a Game 7 Thursday night.
"We'll see what's up tomorrow," said Perkins as he hobbled to the team bus, acknowledging that he felt and heard a pop in his knee when it buckled under the weight of Bynum's 285 pounds.
Officially, the injury was deemed a sprain. Further word on the exact extent of the damage will come Wednesday after Perkins likely undergoes an MRI, but a clue to the severity became apparent to the Celtics players when they arrived in their locker room at halftime, trailing by 20, and saw that Perkins had been escorted to a back room in a vain attempt by the Celtics' staff to keep him and his injury from being the type of downer that would impact the team in the second half.
As it turned out, the Celtics were already so down -- from both a basketball and an emotional standpoint, having been outrebounded by an astounding 30-13 in the first half -- that there would never even be a hint of a comeback over the final 24 minutes.
"You know, we've done that this year, we've lost games," Rivers said. "We've been blown out in some of those games, and if you do that against a team like the Lakers who are ready to play, and play desperate, you're going to lose."
We have seen this before from the Celtics in this postseason, a Game 4 loss against Miami in the first round when they had a chance to sweep, then two consecutive losses to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference finals after they'd won the first three games.
But an NBA championship and an 18th banner were at stake in this one, and the shock of Perkins' injury overshadowed the lack of fire the Celtics displayed from the midpoint of the first quarter onward.
"They did have more energy than us, they were home in their own building. I felt good myself, and I'd like to think everyone else felt good, so we can't use that as an excuse," Ray Allen said. "Making the extra pass, making a play for your teammate -- that didn't really exist for us tonight. We didn't make their defense work at all, and we let their offense score easily."
But most importantly, the loss of Perkins and the lack of any contribution from the bench (no one other than Allen, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett put a single point on the board until Nate Robinson scored with 9:58 left in the fourth quarter) made this a meltdown that can't help but have a carryover effect in what will be the first Game 7 between these two old rivals since 1984.
The Lakers' primary advantage -- aside from having Kobe Bryant, the single most talented player left in the postseason -- is their size and length.
Now, that advantage will be magnified to the point where the Celtics will have to come up with a game plan for the ultimate game while factoring in the fact that they're liable to get killed down low.
Perkins was the big body they needed to match up against Bynum, and that job now falls to ... who?
Rasheed Wallace? Hmmm. After an 0-for-7 night out of him, including six bricked 3-pointers, that option does not exactly inspire confidence.
Glen "Big Baby" Davis? You may recall that the reason he was so effective in that Game 4 sub-driven victory was because of the fact that he didn't have to match up against Bynum, whose size would have prevented all of the interior buckets and boards Davis produced.
Little-used Shelden Williams?
Brian Scalabrine? He might go from being in street clothes for six games to being someone the Celtics will need to turn to for some productive minutes.
"Perk is our enforcer. He's our biggest body we have to throw out there on Bynum. He clears the paint up for us, he does a lot of intangibles. He's a great shot-blocker, rebounder and the anchor of our defense," Rondo said.
The Celtics trailed just 18-12 when the injury happened, but the deficit grew to 10 by the end of the first quarter, to 20 on a vicious dunk by Jordan Farmar less than seven minutes into the second quarter, and to 25 at the end of the third quarter -- a point when Rivers admitted he was already thinking ahead to tactical strategies for Game 7.
If Rivers had looked at the box score between the third and fourth quarters, he would have seen point totals of 16 for Allen, 13 for Pierce, 12 for Garnett and 10 for Rondo -- and goose eggs from everyone else.
"I think we were a little bit focused on if Perk was going to come back instead of just continuing to play," Rondo said. "As soon as halftime came, we all went to the locker room and the training room to see how he was feeling and if he was OK. Our energy went down a little bit, but for the most part it's not an excuse. We just came out and didn't have it."
But Rondo quickly went on to say, "This is in the past."
He may be only 24 years old, but the point guard is surrounded by grown men in their 30s who know better than most how to flush a bad night down the toilet and start anew the next day.
That's the best thing the Celtics can do at this point, and they know it.
"I'm sure we'll both take it. I'm also sure it's not what either of us wanted," Rivers said of Game 7. "I hope we embrace it. It should be fun."
Let's hope it is. But it'll certainly be different with one team close to full strength (Bynum's knee remains a factor) and the other one man down.
Remember, as bad of a night as this was for the Celtics, we're talking about Perkins here, not Russell.
And if I were a betting man, I'd wager that Russell will have plenty of drama to stick around for when the fourth quarter rolls around two nights from now. The Celtics didn't come all this way to go down meekly, and they won't.
Remember, even if they won't have Perkins, they will have a leprechaun on their side. And if you think that's malarkey, consider this: When the Lakers and Celtics have played a Game 7 for the title, Boston is 4-0.