NBA Finals - Game 7 Recap
L.A. Lakers 83, Boston 79 - Lakers win series, 4-3. Los Angeles wins 16th NBA championship
The first 45 minutes of Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals were just like the first six games of the series: painful to watch, even for fans of the winning team in each contest. The series that lacked artful basketball continued to plod forward in its decisive battle, but just when the bricks and turnovers and sweaty palms were overwhelming the occasion, some beauty snuck through the muck.
A tense nation of basketball fans, riveted by the drama put previously repulsed by the low quality on display, had to have been utterly surprised by the man who hit the biggest shot of the NBA season: Ron Artest.
That's right. When the smoke (and confetti) had cleared at a jubilant Staples Center, the player who propelled the Los Angeles Lakers to a 16th world title - and to their first Game 7 Finals win over the Boston Celtics - was not named Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol. Yes, Kobe hit some key shots in the fourth quarter, and Gasol - who deserved the MVP award but lost it to Kobe - threw down 19 points while snatching 18 boards. However, when the outcome of this game hung in the balance, it was the streaky, schizoid, slapstick figure who nudged the Lake Show to the finish line first. The crazy character who instigated the "Malice in the Palace," the Pacers-Pistons brawl in the fall of 2004, hit the cool-customer jump shot that led the Lakers to a cherished repeat against the team they love to beat more than any other.
With just over one minute left, the Lakers - despite being held to fewer than 80 points - owned a three-point edge, 76-73. Then came the moment that had caused anguished cries and groans from Laker fans for the past season, especially in the playoffs: Artest shooting a three. This was the shot that Artest couldn't hit in Boston and generally didn't make in the 2010 postseason, with a few exceptions. The Celtics had to have liked that shot selection, even though the Lakers' personality-based answer to Rasheed Wallace had scored 17 points to that point in this season-ending pulse-pounder. Yet, only one true shot can obliterate a long stream of misses and a barrage of bricks, and sure enough, Artest's last long ball tickled twine and sent Staples into pure pandemonium.
While it's true that Boston's Ray Allen - who suffered through a horrid 3-of-14 shooting night - nailed a three with 51 seconds left to cut the Lakers' lead back to three, the bridge had been crossed. One Gasol rebound enabled the Lakers to shorten the game and finish the proceedings at the foul line. Kobe hit two foul shots with 25 seconds left, and after Rajon Rondo swished a three to bring Boston within two (81-79) at the 16-second mark, L.A.'s Sasha Vujacic put the game away thanks to two more charity pitches with 11.7 to go. The Celtics missed their last shot, and a sea of gold - on the court and in the stands - burst out into the full-throated song of victory.
In a two-minute closing push that finally delivered shotmaking and a generally positive response to pressure by both clubs, basketball fans were treated to something special. It's just unfortunate that the first 46 minutes of this series - like the first six games themselves - couldn't live up to the billing. It's also a shame that Kobe - though the best player in professional basketball - was awarded a name recognition-based MVP award instead of Gasol, who made a steadier and more profound contribution in this title-clinching game and, for that matter, the other games the Lakers won. It was Gasol's length and skill near the rim which fueled the Lakers in Games 2, 6 and 7. Kobe went off in Games 4 and 5 for 30-plus-point performances, but those pretty stat sheets meant little in defeat. Gasol was the best player on the floor in the games the Lakers won during these 2010 Finals.
The Lakers have repeated. The Celtics - though beaten - made the Lake Show earn their back-to-back titles to the very last breath of a contentious NBA season.
By: Matt Zemek
Pro Basketball Fans Staff Writer
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