The Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics Thursday night defending their NBA Championship. On a night where Kobe Bryant shot only 25 percent from the floor, an unlikely hero in Ron Artest stepped up and made big shots down the stretch to edge out the Celtics 83-79.
Despite a poor shooting night from the floor, Kobe Bryant still led the team with 23 points and 15 rebounds. He shot 11-15 from the free throw stripe to help his point total. Bryant looked to be forcing the issue in the first half, taking bad shots and not distributing the ball evenly. He settled down in the second half and even got Ron Artest involved in the action.
Artest was the second leading scorer for the Lakers with 20, and he hit a big three with a minute remaining in the fourth quarter. The Celtics were playing hard defense on Kobe at the top of the key, and he was forced to dish to Artest. Without hesitation, Artest drained a three that kept the Laker lead out of reach.
“I had 20 points, and I still think we did this as a team,” Artest said. “We fought together. This was one of the best games in, I don’t even know, man. I don’t want to be in a game like this, where the game can go either way. … I’m just like, OK, what did I get myself into?”
The Lakers now have 16 championships, one behind the Celtics NBA record 17. The Celtics locker room was somber after the contest. Coach Doc Rivers did his best to console his players, but emotions couldn’t be controlled after Game 7.
“There’s a lot of crying in that locker room,” Rivers said of the atmosphere after the game. “A lot of people who care. I don’t think there was a dry eye. A lot of hugs, a lot of people feeling awful. That’s a good thing. Showed a lot of people cared.”
The Celtics starters were all in double figures, but the bench could only provide six points in support. Paul Pierce led the Celtics in scoring with 18, and grabbed 10 rebounds. Kevin Garnett contributed 17, and Rasheed Wallace stepped into a starting role and put up 11 before fouling out. Wallace was in for Kendrick Perkins, who was not dressed for the game with a sprained ankle.
Ray Allen was especially feeling the sting of a Game 7 loss and told reporters he and his team did everything they could, but came up short in the end. Allen scored 13 points in the losing effort.
“We were scratching and clawing, trying to do everything we could to try to pull this out,” said Allen. “We had an opportunity to win, but it just didn’t go our way down the stretch. I don’t think we ran out of steam. Lady Luck just didn’t bounce in our corner. … There were a lot of tears, a lot of tears.”
NBA sportsbooks had set the Lakers as the favorites by seven points, but the Lakers failed to cover. The over/under was set at 187, and the total points scored was 162.