Last man gets the court.
Make that the last defender(s).
Which is why Paul Pierce was one of the first Celtics, if not the first, off the court, as Staples Center buckled and gave way to bedlam and celebration to the NBA champion Lakers.
Which is why Ron Artest, wearing his 2010 champions hat, was still out there, leaning back in joy amid the chaos.
His teammate, Kobe Bryant, had pounded the verbal point home, time and time again during the long-and-winding and seemingly never-ending playoffs, that defense would be the difference.
Everyone might want to talk about offense. But shoddy defense would not win the championship. Bryant sounded this note so often he started to sound like a broken CD.
He was, again, correct. The ultimate matchup in Game 7, as it turned out, was defense vs. defense in the Lakers’ 83-79 victory over Boston on Thursday night.
“I think it goes to show you that you can have an 83-79 game and it can be a great game because both teams played great defense,” Boston Coach Doc Rivers said.
“You could see that. It was tough getting shots. I thought the lack of size at the end of the day was the difference in the game.”
Said Lakers Coach Phil Jackson: “I thought our defense was terrific. We were able to step in and play the kind of defense that we’ve established as a kind of calling for this team, and we found a way to generate some points.”
The most telling statistic in Game 7 was offensive rebounds.
Boston was simply overwhelmed in that category. The Lakers held a 23-8 edge, overall, and it was 15-2 after the first half.
“I thought our guys battled down there, but 23-8, you know, on offensive rebounds, and then the 37-17 discrepancy in free throws, that makes it almost impossible to overcome,” Rivers said.
In fact, the Lakers’ Pau Gasol had more offensive rebounds (nine) than the Celtics. Boston point guard Rajon Rondo had four offensive rebounds and Rasheed Wallace had two.
Obviously, the loss of a big body, in the form of center Kendrick Perkins, was a massive one for the Celtics. Perkins suffered two torn ligaments in his right knee early in Game 6, and Wallace did an admirable job in filling in.
Rivers suggested that this might have been Wallace’s final game in the NBA. If so, it was a fitting way to leave the sport, Jackson suggested.
“He was a good defensive player tonight,” Jackson said. “I thought he befuddled Pau the first half. ... I was very concerned about the fact that this team was going to have more options without Kendrick Perkins than they would with him on the floor because of Rasheed’s talent and how talented he is.”
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