Ugly, brutish basketball favored the boys from Boston.
It had all series against the finesse Lakers, as the Celtics’ East Coast style helped turn the 2010 NBA Finals into a grind-it-out affair in which the stars were mostly unable to tally high point totals, forced instead to trudge through collapsing defenses and foul trouble.
Fittingly, the games got uglier as the series progressed, and Thursday’s Game 7, an 83-79 Lakers win, became the ugliest of all.
“It was exactly the type of game we wanted,” Coach Doc Rivers said.
Heading into the fourth quarter, 12 minutes from their 18th title, the Celtics led, 57-53. The game had consisted of a five-for-20 night from Kobe Bryant, and a surprise nights from Ron Artest (14 points up to then) and Rasheed Wallace (eight points), who started in place of the injured Kendrick Perkins.
But the feeling inside of Staples Center was that the Celtics and their aging Big Three couldn’t last much longer. And, as the quarter proved, they didn’t.
As the Lakers piled up 30 points, the Celtics got only eight combined points from Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen scored only two until he hit two three-point jumpers inside of a minute that kept the game close.
Lakers’ stars Bryant and Pau Gasol, on the other hand, poured in 19 of those 30 as the Lakers re-took the lead and built upon.
The Lakers’ defense, to be sure, frustrated the Big Three late.
Ron Artest stuck to Pierce, who shot one for five in the quarter.
Allen struggled to get open looks and ran around screen after screen while the Lakers continually switched to not allow him the split second he is known to need for an open shot.
Garnett, whether inside or at the top of the free-throw stripe, pump-faked for shots several times, but looked for his teammates more than he looked for his own, shooting just three times all quarter.
Foul trouble, too, played a role. The Big Three were whistled seven times in the final quarter.
Still, the Celtics got double-digit scoring from all their starters, and the Lakers shot 32.5%. As has held true this series, though, the team (Lakers) that won the rebounding (53-40) won the game.
“I thought the lack of size, at the end of the day, was the difference in the game,” Rivers said.
Thought it was close, Rivers credited two big plays late: Bryant’s three made foul shots with 8:46 left that made it a one-point game, and Derek Fisher’s three-point jumper that tied the score with 6:12 remaining.
“They were close – we always hoped they wouldn’t go on a roll,” Rivers said. “Neither team did, but they were close, and those two shots bailed them out.”
This had seemed like the last run for these Celtics, considering the makeup of the team, which fought through a fourth-place finish in their conference.
“We’re not going to be the same team next year,” Rivers said. “Guys are not going to be there, so that was tough for me. But again, I was just proud.”
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