Updated: June 16, 2010, 10:27 AM ET

1. Artest Has Chance To Change His Status

By J.A. Adande
ESPN.com

LOS ANGELES -- This time, there was an embellishment to Phil Jackson's traditional victory countdown to the championship. After the Lakers' 89-67 victory over the Celtics to force the NBA Finals to Game 7, Jackson added an artistic flourish on the dry-erase board in the Lakers' locker room, scribbling "1 to" followed by a drawing of a ring.

This must have had an added meaning for Ron Artest. He's the only person in the Lakers' locker room without a championship ring. He's the only empty-handed player among the top seven players on both Finals teams, for that matter. So perhaps Jackson felt the need to illustrate for Artest's sake.

After all, "We tried to simplify some things for him tonight," Jackson said.

He was talking about the Lakers' offense, but now the entire premise is as basic as it gets. One game left in the season, and the team that wins will hoist a banner and hand out rings in the first home game next season.

"We're the last two teams left in a Game 7," Artest said. "It's amazing."

It's the first seventh game in the NBA Finals since the San Antonio Spurs beat the Detroit Pistons in 2005.

"Really?" Artest said. "Seven? The Pistons? To Game 7? That was probably pretty intense.

"Was it in San Antonio?"

Yes, just as this Game 7 will be in Los Angeles. The home team has won 13 of the previous 16 Game 7s, including the four most recent ones. That bodes well for the Lakers, given that the return to Staples Center after a week in Boston brought back an effort more reminiscent of their Finals-opening victory than of their losses in Games 4 and 5 that pushed them to a series deficit for the first time in these playoffs.

"If somebody's breaking into your house and trying to hurt your family, you've got to switch your mindset, right?" said Lamar Odom, who grabbed 10 rebounds to go with his eight points.

The Lakers dominated the glass, outrebounding the Celtics 52-39, and took the suspense out of this game by halftime. They held the Celtics to their lowest point total in Boston's extensive NBA Finals history. They survived more swelling in Andrew Bynum's knee that forced yet another second-half shutdown, but that's a mild problem compared with Boston center Kendrick Perkins' apparently severe right knee sprain that jeopardized his availability for Game 7.

Shannon Brown's high-flying dunks wowed the crowd; Jordan Farmar's ground-level dives won the game. Not literally, as in a 1987-Finals-James-Worthy-tide-turning-play kind of way, but they were indicative of how the Lakers outhustled the Celtics in Game 6.

"I have a couple floor burns, I have a blister on my hand, I've got a few pains," Farmar said. "That's how it's supposed to feel in an NBA Finals game."

And those are the stats that matter just as much as Kobe Bryant's 26 points and 11 rebounds or Pau Gasol's approaching the Lakers' first playoff triple-double since 1991 with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 9 assists.

And there was Artest, with 15 points and six assists.

He helped the Lakers get off to their good start by hitting his first shot, a 3-pointer. In one stretch, he attempted shots on four consecutive Lakers possessions, apparently with the blessing of his coaches.

Jackson said they tweaked the offense to give Artest "some stuff just to give him some confidence that he could have a shot and be comfortable taking one, and didn't always have to come out of the offense with a read and he had to do things."

In other words, clear it for him, let him get it and go.

"They called a play for me," Artest said. "I was ready, but I was a little bit surprised. I was like, 'Cool, I've got some plays.' It was pretty cool. I had an [isolation]. It'd been a long time since I had a play."

He looked like a kid who had just been handed a wrapped toy. It was a far cry from his countenance after Game 5, when he missed two critical free throws in the final minute and his defensive assignment, Paul Pierce, went for 27 points. If you've ever come home to find your dog has chewed up a piece of furniture and proceeded to scold him, you've seen the look on Artest's face after Game 5. He knew he had done something wrong, he just wasn't sure what it was.

It prompted the latest round of "Why did they let Trevor Ariza go and sign this guy?" complaints from Lakers fans. And it put Artest on the spot, as if the one guy who didn't have a ring would be the main reason this team didn't get one.

Artest didn't blame himself.

"Even when I don't score the ball well, I play hard, I'm banging, doing some things that guys that are not physical are not doing," he said. "I think that's a real important part of the game. People don't see that part of the game. I'm always feeling good about myself, regardless of what the stats say."

Give Jackson credit for finding a way to keep Artest connected and eliciting a bounce-back from him in Game 6. Whenever doubts about Jackson's value creep in, he comes up with little touches such as this. How many others could count on Artest to bring a team to the brink of a championship?

It was also a bounce-back game for Odom, who was much more assertive and had 10 rebounds and nine assists. He's defensive when it comes to Artest, his longtime buddy from Queens, because he feels partly responsible for this situation.

"I told Ron to come here for this, to be able to play on this stage, because he deserves it," Odom said. "It's too bad that sometimes we have times in our lives where we just get remembered for one thing. Ron is a heck of a person and a hell of a basketball player. He's loyal as hell. I told him that he deserves, the work that he put in, what he had to persevere through, he deserves to play basketball at this level, on this stage."

Odom was hinting at the infamous brawl in the Palace of Auburn Hills in 2004, although that's something that hasn't even been part of the Artest discussion lately, as well as he has behaved as a Laker. Now he's on the brink of giving us another way to define him.

Of all the principals involved in this storyline, he's the only person whose status changes completely. The rest of them are already in the club, it's simply a matter of determining which color wristband (and the corresponding access) they get.

Artest is on the outside. But as the Lakers showed in these past two games, even the place we accord Bryant and Jackson, two men who walk among the greatest names in the game's history, will be determined by the performance of the Artests and Farmars.

"I don't make history," Artest said, insisting that's the duty of the media and the fans. "It's not something that I need to worry about. Unless Twitter starts making history. Then I can use my Twitter."

J.A. Adande is a regular contributor to the Daily Dime.

Dimes past: May 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | June 3 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14

2. Who Replaces Perkins For Celtics?

By Chris Sheridan
ESPN.com
Perkins
Perkins

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 on Thursday night.

"We'll see what's up tomorrow," Perkins said 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 affect 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 in 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."

To read the entire column, click here

3. Past Celtics-Lakers Game 7 Results

By ESPN Research

4. Daily Dime Live Recap

ESPN.com writers and TrueHoop Network bloggers chatted with fans and gave their in-game opinions throughout Tuesday's game -- all in Daily Dime Live.

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