by Marcel Mutoni/@marcel_mutoni

Hey, everyone. I’m the sole representative for SLAM in L.A. tonight; Lang had business to tend to in NYC, but I’m told he’ll be manning the Twitter feed for us. So be sure to check that out.

There’s obviously a lot at stake tonight, for both teams. There are legacies to iron out, a championship to defend, one to win back, and all types of other dramatic material to work with. Stick with us here and we’ll try and get it all sorted out, or at the very least, narrate it as it happens. Should be a great game. Let’s go!

Pregame notes:

-In the Celtics’ locker room, there was a spread of peanut butter & jelly sandwhiches, which I’m told was inspired by Kevin Garnett. KG and Michael Finley each grabbed a handful.

-Doc Rivers, as usual, was exceptional when dealing with the press. He joked around with reporters, called many of them by name, and seemed very at ease with himself and the team heading into tonight’s game.

-Phil Jackson was equally relaxed, telling us that he liked the mood from his team. Jackson also added that it’s critical the Lakers take both Garnett and Paul Pierce out of their comfort zones tonight.

-Jackson stressed that L.A. can’t become over-reliant on Kobe — get him the ball if/when he’s hot, but don’t get caught simply watching him.

First Quarter:

-Christina Aguilera just got through singing the national anthem. She did a fine, if overwrought job. Made even more impressive by the fact that her warmup routine consisted of her walking around the court for a few seconds and then belting out a couple of notes. Talent!

-Crowd here inside Staples is really loud. Not Boston-loud, but loud.

-Kobe bricks the game’s first shot, and KG streaks down the court for an open layup. Kobe then responds with a drive to the hoop for his own open layup. Tied early.

-Following a Rondo floater, the Lakers finally get the ball in the post, where Bynum flips it in over the Celtics defense. Ray Allen then knocks in a jumper to retake the lead for Boston.

-Ron Artest’s three from the baseline and Derek Fisher’s breakaway layup off the steal five the Lakers a 9-6 lead. Loud “De-FENSE!” chants from the Staples faithful.

-Ray Allen gets behind Fisher’s defense and lays it, plus the foul from Fish. Ray then calmly sinks the freebie. Tied at 9 with 8 minutes to go in the opening quarter.

-Speaking of Allen, he just hit his first three since Game 2. He likes this gym, it seems.

-Huge block from Gasol on Perkins, followed up by a Kobe layup. LA up 14-12. Early foul trouble for Fisher, as he exits with two quick fouls in the early going.

-Kobe has come out firing — he has 8 early points — and Pau looks to be alive as well, after finishing the fastbreak with the tough layup. Lakers up 18-12. And we have our first timeout of the game.

-L.A. is dominating the battle on the boards so far (7 -3). Key thing to remember: whatever team won the rebounding fight has won each game in the series to date.

-Kendrick Perkins was carried off the floor, and into the Celtics’ locker room after landing awkwardly on his leg. Tough blow for Boston; Rasheed Wallace replaces him in the lineup.

-Kobe, meanwhile, continues the hot shooting with a three pointer. He has 11 of the Lakers’ 21 points. But Kevin Garnett responds with his second straight hoop. Celtics down five.

-Ron Artest is taking and (miraculously) hitting shots so far tonight. Eight points for Artest on 3-5 shooting. Not sure that was on anyone’s scouting report. Though, to be fair, he was hitting a lot of them in the pregame warmups.

-Pierce, Ron’s nemesis, knocks in a spinning jumper to trim LA’s lead down to 8. Lakers dominating early. 26 – 18 as we head into another timeout.

-Laker defense creates yet another Celtic turnover, which is then rewarded by a Gasol turnaround over ‘Sheed. Lead back up to 10.

-Celtics fail to get off a shot as the first quarter ends. L.A. has a 28-18 lead, and is off to the start every Laker fan had hoped for. Still no word on Perkins’ condition …

Second Quarter:

-X-rays are being performed on Kendrick Perkins’ right knee as we speak.

-Vujacic knocks in a three, which is then answered in lightning-quick fashion by Ray Allen. 30-20, Lakers.

-The Lakers are playing with all of the urgency on the floor, and the Celtics continue to watch as the lead grows. The rebounding edge has also ballooned to 14 – 5 in favor of L.A.

-Doc Rivers smartly pulls Rasheed from the game after his hack of Lamar Odom. It was smart because Wallace came close to earning another tech (and a suspension) while arguing the call, which was his third foul of the game already. Odom’s free throws make it 34 – 20 for the Lakers.

-Ray Allen is the game’s leading scorer with 12 points, and the only Celtic who can seem to get anything going so far. Kobe headed to the line for two free throws after this timeout.

-Jordan Farmar with an impressive take to the hoop, and scores over KG. Were this a few years ago, Farmar would’ve been destroyed on that. Gasol then beats Garnett down the floor for an open putback and layup. Lakers lead grows to 40 – 23. Yikes.

-Big Baby, aka “Shrek”, bricks two consecutive free throws, but Pierce comes right back and answers with a tough driving layup. Gasol — who’s playing infinitely better than he did in Boston — then finds Sasha for an open three.

-Jordan Farmar yokes one on Kevin Garnett. Good lord. I think my eyes are playing tricks on me. Lakers’ lead now 45 – 27, and another timeout. Just under five minutes remaining in the first half.

-Ron Artest, still over-dribbling. The only difference tonight, is that he’s making his shots.

-Kobe Bryant re-enters the fray, and hits a tough, hanging banker over Paul Pierce. Lead up to 22 points now. Well, it was until KG dusted himself off and canned a jumper.

-Wow, we have a Josh Powell sighting. In the NBA Finals. This can’t be life!

-A bunch of unimportant stuff happened …

-Sasha Vujacic comes back to earth and misses a wide-open three by about 12 miles. Goodness. Still, Lakers up by 20 with under a minute to go.

-Paul Pierce cans a long jumper in Kobe’s eye. PP has eight points so far.

-Lamar Odom tips in a forced miss by Bryant, pushing the lead back up to 20 as we head into halftime. 51 – 31 for the Lakers, who are dominating every facet of the game.

Third Quarter:

-Derek Fisher picks up his 4th foul almost immediately as soon as the second half begins. It’s now up to Shannon Brown to check Ray Allen.

-Rondo’s jumper makes it 51 – 33. And Lakers fans are praying they’ll not see a repeat of Game 4 of the 2008 Finals.

-Kobe is facing double teams each times he gets near the rock, and Boston’s defense is tightening up. They just can’t buy buckets right now. Lamar Odom, though, can. As he sticks a long jumper.

-Paul Pierce’s open three-pointer trims the lead back down to 17 points. But Kobe comes right back with a tough drive, getting the and-1 over Kevin Garnett. Bryant has 18 points now, following the freebie.

-Kobe then finds Shannon Brown on the break for the monster slam. Crowd here eating it up. But KG quiets them for a moment with a long jumper.

-Still, L.A. remains fully in control with a 50 – 32 lead heading into the timeout. The rebounding edge is now 34- 19.

-UPDATE from the NBA: “Boston Celtics center Kendrick Perkins sustained a right knee sprain and will not return to tonight’s game. His condition will be re-evaluated tomorrow. The injury occurred at the 5:30 mark of the first quarter.” (Tough blow for the Celtics.)

-Shannon Brown would be a very rich man if he sold his jumping ability. He just skied in for an incredible one-handed alley oop out of the timeout. Needless to say, the crowd exploded.

-Kevin Garnett makes yet another jumper. But Kobe comes back into the lane and earns himself a tripe to the charity stripe. Lead back up to 19 following Bryant’s makes.

-The Lakers’ bench has 21 points. The Celtics’ pine has a big, fat zero points. Cripes.

-Rondo makes the rare jumper (for him, anyway), but Ron Artest gets to the hoop for a tough layup. Rajon then escapes Kobe for an open layup. Great play. Lead at 17 now.

-Speaking of great plays, Gasol tosses in a nice left-handed hook in KG’s mug. We head to another timeout with Rondo about to shoot free throws. Your score: 70 – 51.

-With Rondo on the floor, writhing in pain (he took a shot to the face), Vujacic knocks down an open three pointer to push the lead up to 22, the biggest it’s been tonight. During the 20-second timeout, Laker fans start chanting “Boston Sucks!” again.

-Ron Artest adding insult to blowout: Tru Warrier cans an open three (his 3rd of the night) to push lead up to 25. End of 3 quarters.

-I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but I’m already prepping for Game 7.

Fourth Quarter:

-Between the third and fourth quarters, I took a bathroom break and heard a drunken Lakers fan chant, “Shoot it, Rondo!” This was followed up by delirious laughter. Yep, the home fans are enjoying this blowout.

(Which, incidentally, Gasol just pushed to a 27-point lead. In the NBA Finals! What is this, 2008?)

-Andrew Bynum will likely not return tonight. He has a massive ice pack on that bad right knee of his. He’ll need to give it everything he’s got in Game 7. With the Celtics hoping Perkins can make a comeback.

-Nate Robinson is the first Celtic to score off the bench tonight. That, as we say in the business, is not good. 24 – 3 is the bench scoring disparity for the Lakers/Celtics.

-Some careless Lakers play on the offensive end has led to a couple of fastbreak opportunities for Boston, which is still down by 21 (following Kobe’s technical foul.)

-A weaving Kobe drive gives him 22 points for the night, and the Lakers a 23-point lead with 5 minutes to go. As he heads to the line, following a questionable foul on Tony Allen, the crowd serenades him with “MVP!” chants. Lead back up to 25. Really.

-Marquis Daniels for three! This has to be the Twilight Zone.

-Kobe then ducks under the hoop for a nice layup. Phil Jackson will likely pull him from this game any second now. Huge lead, with 3 minutes to go.

-Huge ovation as Bryant exits the game.

-The crowd begins to file out of the Staples Center with just under 3 minutes remaining. Can’t blame them. This puppy has been over since halftime. 88 – 65, Lakers.

-All we are left with now are dying “Boston Sucks!” chants, and free throws for both sides. Pardon me as I yawn …

-That’s all, folks! Lakers even up the series with Boston in convincing fashion (89 – 67), forcing an epic Game 7 on Thursday night. We’ll be in the building bringing you all the goods from Staples Center.

Goodnight.