It wasn't a demonstration of the highest basketball skill. It did show the physical side of a Game Seven championship game. The L.A. Lakers overcame a 13 point deficit in the third quarter and beat the Boston Celtics: 83 - 79
In a game where the Lakers struggled from the free throw line, rebounding in the first half kept them in the game. The Lakers shot a miserable 26% from the field in the first quarter. Kobe Bryant was 3 - 14. He was 1 - 7 in the first quarter.
The first half ended with the Lakers trailing 34 - 40. At one point, Kobe Bryant was 2 for 11. The Boston Celtics focused their defense on Bryant and often sent two defenders at him. Sometimes a third defender was sliding into Bryant's area, when he had the ball. It was clear that the Celtics were not letting Bryant drive to the hoop. What kept the deficit in the first half from being larger was the play of Ron Artest.
It was a stellar game for Artest at both ends of the floor. He scored 20 points and had five steals. He played tough defense against Paul Pierce. As mentioned previously in a pre-game prediction:
"... There will be no one in the building trying harder than Ron Artest. This includes Kobe Bryant. It appears that the prime motivator for Artest is respect. It may mean more to him that finances or media attention. He craves the respect from his team mates and coaches. He has tried mightily not to cause any problems this season. Winning a championship means that he belongs with this championship team. It fulfils a promise that he made to Kobe Bryant in 2008 that he would help Bryant beat the Celtics. It would put a pause in the endless Artest / Ariza discussion."
Ron Artest may be the only player in NBA history to thank his psychiatrist in a post game interview. The Lakers needed a significant contribution from Artest and he produced it. At one point Artest, in the second half, needed to rest. He was taken out of the game for a short time. The stoppage of play for television commercials gave Artest some added minutes to rest. He played the most minutes (46) of all the Lakers. And, for Ron Artest... "Queensbridge!".
The Celtics missed the inside presence of Kendrick Perkins. The Lakers had a decided rebound advantage: 53 - 40. Pau Gasol was able to grab some important rebounds, especially in the fourth quarter, and made some critical baskets. Gasol had 19 points and 18 rebounds. Most likely, Perkins would have altered that number. Gasol made the game closer than expected by missing 6 of his 13 free throws.
Gasol was not the only one of the Lakers who struggled from the free throw line. Kobe Bryant missed 4 free throws in 15 attempts. It was a poor shooting night for Bryant: 6 - 24. Bryant only had 2 assists for the game. He challenged the Boston defense that was focused on sending help to guard him. Bryant made his major contribution by grabbing 15 rebounds.
Phil Jackson made a timely decision by putting Sasha Vujacic into the game in the fourth quarter. With so many of the Lakers having free throw troubles, Jackson trusted Vujacic to make two critical free throws. And he did.
There were other timely contributions that made a difference in a close game. Derek Fisher made 4 - 6 shots and added 10 points. Andrew Bynum was able to play through knee pain for 19 minutes and contributed 2 points and 6 rebounds. Lamar Odom added a necessary 7 points, along with 7 rebounds. Both Shannon Brown and Jordan Farmar were a steady defensive influence during their minutes on the court.
The Celtics tried to shoot their way back in the last minutes and a half, with three point shots from Rasheed Wallace, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. Artest answered back for the Lakers with a three point basket.
On a night when Kobe Bryant struggled, the Lakers played stifling defense and limited the Celtics to 17 points in the second quarter and 17 points in the third quarter. The old basketball adage is "defense wins championships" and, in the case of Game Seven, that was indeed the case.
Congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers, 2010 NBA champions. That's two in a row. Will Phil Jackson return to the Lakers for a try at a third consecutive championship?
some of the sports reports:
from John Cherwa
, L. A. Times: "..."Ron Artest was the most valuable player for our team," Jackson said. "He brought life to our team and brought life to the crowd.""
from Kevin Ding
, Orange County Register: "... Jackson said the key was Gasol managing to dominate from the post for a brief stretch late in a game in which both teams seemed to need a crowbar to get anything into the net. The play was so physical that crowbars might've been wielded while playing defense, too."
from Julian Benbow
, The Boston Globe: "... Openly sensing his legacy was on the line, Pierce was as aggressive as he was effective early on, scoring 11 points in the first half. He got into a scuffle with Ron Artest under the basket that was almost a instant replay of their wrestling match seconds into Game 1."
from Howard Beck
, The New York Times: "... Bryant passed, and Ron Artest hit a 3-pointer. Bryant misfired, and Pau Gasol made things right. And finally, when time had run out and the ball was in his arms once more, Bryant leapt, confident his teammates would catch him."
from Greg Beacham
, Associated Press: "... "This one is by far the sweetest, because it's them," Bryant said after the Lakers beat Boston for the first time in a Game 7. "This was the hardest one by far. I wanted it so bad, and sometimes when you want it so bad, it slips away from you. My guys picked me up.""
from Beth Harris
, Associated Press: "... As Bryant floundered, Artest took over in the second quarter, scoring 12 points. He keyed their 11-0 run with six points to open the period, giving the Lakers a two-point lead. His 3-pointer tied the game at 29, then he went 3 of 4 from the line to send the Lakers into halftime trailing 40-34."
from Dan Shaughnessy
, The Boston Globe: "... “I told my guys after the game I couldn’t be more proud of the group than any I’ve ever been around,’’ said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, who hasn’t decided if he wants to come back for 2010-11. “We’re not going to be the same team next year. Guys are going to not be there, so that was tough for me.’’"
from Arash Markazi
, ESPN: "... He was the only one on the floor who played without the weight of the world -- or at least the city -- on his shoulders. He was the only one who bought into the cliché that it was simply another game because maybe in Ron Artest's mind it was."