Through six games neither team looked significantly better than the other. The final act would be the decisive one. "It's Lakers-Celtics, biggest rivalry in NBA basketball, seven games," Rondo said. "It's what it is."
June 17, Staples Center, Los Angeles
Lakers 83, Celtics 79
FOR 30 YEARS THE LAKERS WERE SHOWTIME. THEIR games were ballets, stylish fast breaks punctuated by theatrical slam dunks. They did not beat opponents so much as they dazzled them. They were a joy to behold. Then came Game 7 of the 2010 Finals and it all ground to a halt. The Lakers blew layups. They missed open jumpers. The show was over.
The Lakers lost their legs in Game 7, but somehow they did not lose their will. They exacted their long-awaited revenge upon the Celtics by beating them at their own game. In other words, they shoved their longtime rivals out of the Finals in a way that was unglamorous but effective. After Los Angeles had strong-armed its way to another title, Jackson said, "It wasn't well done, but it was done. And we did it with perseverance."
Los Angeles did it in the face of a 13-point third-quarter deficit, with Bryant making just 6 of 24 field goals in the game, with the team missing 12 free throws and shooting all of 32.5%. The Lakers, in their first Finals Game 7 of the Jackson era, were tight from the outset, but they did not let their struggles affect their effort. In this series the team that won the rebounding margin won every game, including the last one, as L.A. outrebounded Boston 53-40.
The MVP of the series was Bryant, but the Lakers agreed that the unlikely MVP of the game was Artest, who scored 20 points and held Pierce to 5-of-15 shooting. Artest, wildly inconsistent all season, finished on an upswing to earn the first championship of his career. Two years to the day after he showed up in the Lakers' locker room following their loss to the Celtics and told Bryant he would never let such an embarrassment occur again, Artest delivered on his promise.
Although Bryant suffered through his worst shooting game of the playoffs—"I wanted it so, so bad," he said, "and the more I tried to push, the more it kept getting away from me"—he did not let his frustration carry over to the defensive end. He came up with 15 rebounds, Gasol added 18, and the Lakers gave themselves just enough second chances.
Even without Bryant at his best, L.A. pulled away for its second straight championship and fifth in the past 10 years. The Lakers now have 16 championships, one short of the Celtics, and next season they will be gunning for Boston again.