NBA Finals Game 7: Lakers beat Celtics, win 16th title
NBA Finals Game 7: It wasn't the prettiest NBA finals game but Game 7 went to the Lakers 83-79 over the Boston Celtics.
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The Celtics had never lost a seventh game in the finals. Despite nursing a lead through most of the night while holding the Lakers to ridiculously low shooting percentages until the final minutes, Boston couldn't close it out on the coast, becoming just the seventh team to blow a 3-2 finals lead after winning Game 5.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Riots in Los Angeles after the NBA finals
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Los Angeles had lost a seventh game to Boston four times previously — but those teams didn't have Bryant, who's just one title shy of Michael Jordan's six rings after winning his second title without Shaquille O'Neal, his partner in the first three.
With that fourth-quarter escape act, Bryant and fellow five-time champion Derek Fisher even earned the right to celebrate a title at home for the first time since winning their first rings in 2000.
Lakers coach Phil Jackson won his 11th title overall, his fifth in Los Angeles — and perhaps the last for the winningest playoff coach in NBA history. Weary of the regular-season grind and facing a likely pay cut with the Lakers, Jackson hasn't determined his future, though he previously said another title would make him more likely to chase an unprecedented fourth threepeat next season, when he'll be 65.
With his hands already full, maybe Jackson will follow Russell's lead and put that 11th championship ring on a chain around his neck — and Bryant isn't likely to settle for just one handful of rings.
The Celtics had much more poise from the opening tip in Game 7, playing vicious defense that forced Los Angeles to miss 21 of its first 27 shots. Bryant and Gasol were a combined 6 for 26 in the first half while the Lakers made just 26.5 percent of their shots, and only Ron Artest's 12 points and relentless effort kept the Celtics' halftime lead to six points.
The Lakers are the first team to rally from a 3-2 deficit to win a finals since Houston did it in 1994, beating the New York Knicks. Boston did it twice to the Lakers, including an infamous 1969 finale in which thousands of celebratory balloons never were released from the Forum rafters in Inglewood.
Staples Center had no such problems, unleashing a downpour of streamers and confetti when the Lakers finally finished it off. Although Los Angeles stumbled to the brink of elimination for the first time in these playoffs last weekend in Boston, Bryant's teams still are spectacular finishers: They've closed out their playoff opponents on the first try 10 times while winning three straight Western Conference titles over the last three years.
Bryant further cemented his place in the NBA's highest circles by leading the Lakers to back-to-back titles, something no other NBA superstar has accomplished since he and O'Neal did it nearly a decade ago. He also picked up a unique bit of Lakers credibility by sending home the Celtics in a Game 7, which West failed to do in three tries and Johnson couldn't manage in 1984.
NOTES: Home teams improved to 14-3 in Game 7 in the finals. No road team has won a title in Game 7 since 1978. ... The Lakers are 14-1 in a seventh game at home, losing only the 1969 finale to Boston. ... Garnett nearly flattened Jack Nicholson when he chased a loose ball into the front row in the second quarter, but the Lakers' most famous fans got back up smiling. Other fans near courtside included Jake Gyllenhall, Kirsten Dunst, Ryan Seacrest, Timbaland, director Todd Phillips and George Lopez in purple-and-yellow plaid pants.
IN PICTURES: Riots in Los Angeles after the NBA finals