Celtics 79, Lakers 83
In one of the most epic games ever played in NBA Finals history, there is no defining moment. Two juggernauts battled for 48 minutes, and with both teams making key plays down the stretch, there is no way to pinpoint one as the definitive game-changer.
So let's run through the final minutes that featured numerous key plays that determined the NBA's champion.
With the Celtics trailing by four points and less than two minutes remaining in the game, Paul Pierce grabbed a Lamar Odom missed 3-pointer and took it coast-to-coast. He drove through numerous Lakers defenders and put up a shot in the paint, hoping to draw a foul, but Pau Gasol got a piece of the shot from behind. Pierce was able to grab the rebound, but his momentum took him out of bounds and forced him to toss a desperation pass toward Rasheed Wallace, who stood along the sideline. The pass was off-line and Sheed wasn't able to save it from going out of bounds, giving LA possession of the ball.
Immediately following that play, the Lakers pounded the ball into the post and let Gasol go to work on the block. As he backed his way into the paint, he made a move toward the baseline and went up for a shot over Rasheed Wallace, but when he saw Kevin Garnett flying in for the block, Gasol was forced to double-pump. As Gasol came back down to the floor, he put up a difficult shot that sunk through the hoop for his final points of the game, putting LA ahead by six with 1:30 left on the clock. But what wasn't seen in real time was that before Gasol got the shot off, his feet touched the floor, which is a violation and should have resulted in a turnover. So with the missed call, LA matched its largest lead of the game.
But just when you thought the Celtics were done, Rasheed Wallace delivered his biggest shot of the game, a 3-pointer from the left wing that came just seven seconds after Gasol's illegal bucket. That shot sliced the lead in half, and was a momentum-building shot for Boston.
What happened next is what you can call a momentum-killer.
As the shot clock was running down for Los Angeles on its next possession, Ron Artest -- not Kobe Bryant -- took one of the most important shots of the season for the Lakers. It was a 3-pointer from the right wing that dropped through the net to double the lead back up to six, effectively nixing Wallace's enormous shot just one possession earlier. Los Angeles' final 3-pointer of the game loomed even larger when Ray Allen went on to make a trey for Boston at the other end, which would have tied the game had Artest's shot missed.
Rajon Rondo managed to make a remarkable, desperation 3-pointer for the C's with 16.2 seconds remaining -- a play that exemplified Boston's inability to quit in this game -- that cut the lead down to two, but two free throws from the little-used Sasha Vujacic with 11.7 seconds remaining sealed the victory for Los Angeles.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a more memorable and hard-fought NBA game in the last 20 years. Boston's aging bodies left it all on the floor tonight, with every starter eclipsing 35 minutes of playing time (including the spot-starting Wallace) and three playing at least 44:53. The Lakers deserve their credit, too, because they made plays when they had to in order to take home the title.
The only thing left to say is that this one surpassed its hype, and that's saying a lot for a Celtics-Lakers Game 7 showdown.
Key Box Score Line
The Celtics played like champions tonight, giving a valiant effort from top to bottom and essentially playing with a six-man rotation despite playing in their 106th game of the season.
The stat sheet will show four 30-plus-year-old veterans dropping in big-time minutes and all finishing in double-figures, led by Paul Pierce's 18 points and 10 boards. Kevin Garnett chipped in 17 points, too.
But in a fitting ending to the season, Boston's best regular season player had the best night of anyone wearing green. Rajon Rondo nearly attained his third triple-double of the playoffs as he finished the night with 14 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists. He shot 6-of-13 from the floor and committed only three turnovers in 44:53 of playing time.
On a night when he needed to be outstanding, he was. All of the Celtics were. It just wasn't enough down the stretch, and they'll be left with the emptiest of feelings to motivate them all summer long heading into the 2010-11 season.
Box Score Nuggets
- The Celtics were outrebounded 53-40.
- All five Boston starters scored in double-figures.
- Four Celtics (Paul Pierce, Glen Davis, Rajon Rondo and Rasheed Wallace) grabbed at least eight rebounds.
- Ray Allen shot 3-of-14 from the field and finished with 13 points.
- Boston limited LA to 32.5 percent shooting in the game.
- Game 7 was determined at the free-throw line, where the Lakers took 20 more attmpts (37) than the Celtics (17).
- Boston flipped the switch on shot blocks, knocking away seven of LA's shots tonight after being on the short end nearly all series long.
- Kobe Bryant struggled from the field all night long, shooting only 6-of-24, but finished with a game-high 23 points as well at 15 rebounds.
- Pau Gasol grabbed a game-high 18 rebounds (nine at each end) to go along with 19 points.
- Glen Davis was the only reserve to score a point for Boston. He tallied six.
- Ron Artest exploded for 20 points on 7-of-18 shooting.
- Paul Pierce and Ray Allen each took six free throws a piece, while no other Celtic attempted more than two.
- Los Angeles assisted on only 11 baskets.
- The Lakers took 83 shot attempts.
- Boston's starters set an interesting trend in personal fouls, increasing sequentially by position. Rondo was whistled for two, Ray Allen three, Paul Pierce four, Kevin Garnett five and Rasheed Wallace six.
- Garnett blocked four shots and scored 17 points.
- Rondo nearly recorded a triple-double with 14 points, eight rebounds and 10 assists.
- Rondo's 10 assists were a game high. His four fellow starters each dished out two dimes.
- LA grabbed 23 offensive rebounds.
Quote of the Night
Doc Rivers on his 2009-10 Boston Celtics: "You know, it was the craziest, most emotional group I've ever coached in my life. I told them, they made me reach to places that I never thought I needed to go, I had to go. But through it all, we were the tightest most emotional crazy group that I've ever been with in my life.."