The series began with an L.A. victory in Game 1. Both teams went back-and-forth for the first 4 games – leaving the NBA Finals tied at 2 wins apiece. Andrew Bynum, who had been extremely effective up to that point, tweaked his already-injured knee in Game 4. Before that, the Lakers seemed poised to take a 3-1 lead in the series.
The Boston Celtics went onto win Game 5. Kobe Bryant came up huge – scoring 19 points in the first 7:00 minutes of the 3rd quarter. But their dominance on the boards vanished. Pau Gasol was forced to match-up against Kendrick Perkins, which made him seem to almost disappear (almost mirroring 2008). This also allowed Garnett to dominate the paint against Odom.
Boston was obviously feeling good about their chances about going back to the Staples Center with a 3-2 lead. But early in Game 6, like Bynum, the Celtics’ starting Center Kendrick Perkins also aggravated his right knee injury. Essentially, both teams were both lacking their big 5 man. This loss suffered by Boston allowed Gasol to match up against Garnett once again. And the Lakers rolled to a dominant Game 6 victory – forcing the decisive Game 7.
Game 7 was one of the most exciting basketball games of the modern era of NBA basketball – considering the Championship implications of the bout. The Celtics got off to a great start, on the road. So good, in fact, that if it was not for the Lakers’ dominance on the offensive glass, they may have gotten blown out early in this game. Kobe Bryant, who later said, “I couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean if I was on a boat tonight,” went 6-of-24 from the field. But he dominated the glass, with 15 boards(as L.A. should have been doing all series long). His teammates bailed him out offensively. Pau Gasol dominated the paint once-again with 19 points and 18 rebounds. Odom and Fisher combined for key shots, which the Lakers desperately needed to stay in Game 7.
But the man of the hour was Ron Artest. He answered all of the criticism in a big, big way. He made all of the key plays to almost single-handedly keep the Lakers in the game. His offensive rebounds for put-backs and defensive stops put a strangle-hold on Paul Pierce and Boston. He finished with 20 points and 5 steals. Artest silenced a lot of doubters… even Lakers’ fans were pessimistic about what he brang to the table. His offense was good and scrappy. But his defense was off the charts. This game was one of the great all-time defensive, knock-down, dragged-out battles. Jeff Van Gundy commented that he has never seen the Lakers play such great defense. And the reason was Ron Artest. And to top it off, he also gave a couple of the funniest (and strangest) post-Finals interviews, since Brian Scalabrine back in 2008.
It was an epic, 7-game war. The level of play in this series was far above anything we basketball fans have seen all Playoffs long. Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen are all future Hall-of-Famers. But, this time, it was the L.A. Lakers that came up on top.
It’s hard to even begin to comprehend how heart-breaking that moment must have been for Celtics’ fans when Bill Russell presented that Finals MVP Award to Kobe Bryant.