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In a series that has been completely unpredictable, there was a certain inevitability to Tuesday night’s outcome as if the NBA Finals were destined to go the distance.

But before the conspiracy theorists among you start pointing fingers in David Stern’s direction, just read what Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo had to say in the wake of the Lakers‘ 89-67 Game 6 win that forced Thursday night’s winner-take-all conclusion to the 2009-10 NBA season.

“No,” Rondo said when asked if he was surprised that the series was going the distance. “You know, it’s Lakers-Celtics, the biggest rivalry in NBA basketball, seven games. It is what it is.”

Rondo didn’t expound on exactly what this is, so we’ll do it for him.

It’s — clichés be damned — the ultimate do-or-die, win-or-go-home, for-all-the-marbles moment in professional sports. It’s a fitting conclusion to the most evenly contested NBA Finals in over a decade. It’s the latest, greatest chapter in the most storied rivalry in basketball history and it’s a more than worthy addition to that already epic tale.

The one thing it isn’t, however, is anything close to predictable.

Don’t get me wrong. It certainly seems as if momentum has swung convincingly in the Lakers‘ direction. Not only do they have history on their side (home teams have won 13 of the 16 Game 7s that have been played in the NBA Finals), the injury to Kendrick Perkins should give the Lakers the advantage in the one statistical category (team rebounding) that has proven a reliable predictor of Finals success.

There’s also the well-documented theory regarding role players and the road — a premise that found ample support in Game 6. At least for one game, home cooking was all Kobe Bryant‘s supporting cast needed to make a return appearance in the series, as Pau Gasol‘s near-triple double, Ron Artest‘s accuracy from beyond the arc and Lamar Odom‘s effort on the glass kept Bryant from needing to go it alone. Conversely, Boston’s bench’s disappearing act in Game 6 — through three quarters, the Celtics reserves were being outscored by their Lakers counterparts, 23-0 — was a primary culprit behind the second-lowest scoring night in NBA Finals history.

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