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In a timeout near the end of Game 5, Lakers’ coach Phil Jackson told his players that the Celtics know how to lose in the forth quarter. Whether it was his Zen propaganda, the Monstars sucking the talent out of Ray Allen, or the absence of Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics proved Jackson’s theory to be accurate in Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
The Celtics lost the final game of the series 83-79, and consequently the chance to raise their 18th championship banner to the rafters in 2010.
From the get-go, the Celtics had all of the momentum on their side. Great defense forced Kobe Bryant to take bad shots as he went 1-for-7 in the first quarter with only 3 points. The C’s shot nearly 60 percent, but were embarrassed on the offensive boards and the absence of Perkins was evidently a problem.
All changed in the first half of the second quarter when Boston let a nine-point lead fizzle away to the gold and purple. The Lakers moved up and down the court all over the Celtics, and continued to get offensive rebounds. Despite grabbing 17 combined rebounds, Pau Gasol and Kobe were 6-26 shooting in the first half, allowing the C’s to keep their lead and the momentum into half time.
Led by all-around great play by Rajon Rondo, Boston had as much as a 13-point lead in the third quarter. With a few minutes left, however, the game began to slip away for good.
In the fourth quarter, Kobe showed up just enough to give his team its 16th NBA Finals Championship. Ron Artest made a big three-pointer in the final minutes of the game that essentially sealed the deal and made any chance of a comeback unlikely for the Celtics.
Rasheed Wallace played okay in place of the injured Perkins, but surprise, surprise, foul trouble cost him and some impulsive shots neutralized his effectiveness.
The Celtics bench was barely used aside from Glen Davis, who only contributed 6 points in nearly 21 minutes. Tony Allen was especially futile for the C’s, as they were outscored by nine points in his only five minutes in the game.
The Lakers bench, on the other hand, played great defense and kept the Celtics out of the game late. Lamar Odom led all players with a +/- of +13, followed by Jordan Farmar with +10 and in only 5:25 on the court, Sasha Vujacic with +9.
Even while out-rebounding the Celtics (53-40 overall, 23-8 offensive), the Lakers played a poor game and gave the road team more than enough chances to win. LA shot 27-83, 4-20 behind the arc and missed 12 free throws. Yet, Boston refused to rebound and dished out foul after foul, giving the Lakers 37 free-throws to the Celts’ 17.
For both teams, the game was ugly and despite valiant efforts, neither team really deserved to win. Kobe Bryant looked awful for most of the game, and while the Celtics continued to foul the Lakers, they weren’t capitalizing. Just as we all suspected, the Perkins injury emphasized his importance to the team and had his big body been in the low post, we might have watched another Celtics blowout victory. And it goes beyond the rebounding – Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom simply would have been much less effective.
Now we all just have to sit and hope Ray Allen gets his Game 2 shot back and takes a pay-cut.
Ray Allen, who set an NBA record for three point field goals in a Finals game earlier in the series, led the team with four costly turnovers and shot a gruesome 3-14 in 45 minutes. A par performance from Allen could have been all the Celtics needed to get Banner No. 18.
Artest credited his performance to his psychiatrist, and what an unfortunate time for the mentally unstable forward to get his act together. He scored 20 points on the night, each of which seemed to be exactly when his team needed, and sunk two huge three-pointers.