A couple of quick thoughts about Game 7…
• Pau Gasol came out smoking — not literally — and had 5 rebounds (4 offensive) in the first three minutes of the game, and I thought that really set the tone for L.A. The Lakers had a huge rebounding advantage early and ended up with a 53-40 edge on the boards, and they just felt like the more energized team all night. So the team that had more rebounds won each of the seven games in the series. And while Kobe finished with 15 boards, Pau finished Game 7 with 19 boards and 18 rebounds, and he officially exorcised that 11 point/5 turnover performance from Game 6 in 2008. There has always been talk about Gasol being “soft,” and even Kobe felt the need, unprompted, to say that Pau isn’t soft on the NBA TV postgame coverage. But who cares? If a guy can give me 19 and 18, call him whatever you want. I’ll take him on my team any day.
• I saw a lot of people say that if the Celtics had to lose one of their starters, Perkins was possibly their most expendable. But from the time Perk went down in Game 6 through the end of the series, the Lakers outscored Boston 154-134 and outrebounded Boston 98-76. That’s not all Perkins’ presence, but it played a huge part.
• After interjecting themselves throughout the series, the refs finally were more or less a non-factor. They called a total of 46 fouls, which tied for second-fewest in these Finals (with Game 4). (The fewest in these Finals was 38 in the Game 6 blowout.) The refs let both teams play early, let the game get a little physical, clamped down when Pierce and Ron Ron got tangled up, and then called obvious shooting fouls down the stretch. Actually, they called it like a regular season game. It is always said that the best refs are the ones you don’t talk about after the game. Last night, this held true.
• What was awesome was that as bad as Kobe looked offensively for long portions of the game — turning the ball over, forcing shots over double-teams, over-dribbling and giving Boston time to catch up defensively; Kobe finished with just two more field goals than turnovers — in the fourth quarter he simply made plays. After beginning the quarter with a turnover and a foul, Kobe drew those three free throws when Ray Allen played him too close, he drilled that fade-away with about 5 minutes to go, he drove the ball hard into Rasheed to foul him out and go to the line, and he grabbed four straight rebounds just under six minutes.
• Doc Rivers did a heckuva job all season managing the Celtics, keeping them healthy and making the most of a bench that included a couple of guys (Nate Robinson, Shelden Williams) who couldn’t even get playing time on bad teams. And he also has managed to get all his best players to buy into whatever it was he was selling. But why didn’t Boston make more of an effort, particularly in the fourth quarter, to get Paul Pierce going. He went 1-5 in the fourth quarter and finished 5-15 for the game, so Pierce — like everyone else on the floor, actually — wasn’t his best. But it seemed like Boston was spending a lot of time running an ice-cold Ray Allen off screens instead of posting Pierce on the free throw line extended where he goes to work a lot.
• Kobe is now tied with Magic Johnson with 5 NBA titles. He’s 31 years old, the same age Magic was when he retired the first time. He’s obsessed with winning, and he’s probably got at least 3-4 more years playing at the level he’s playing at now. And Kobe, Gasol, Bynum, Artest and Odom are all signed at least through 2013. So it’s not unrealistic to think Kobe will get at least one more ring, and maybe two or three more. If he’s not already considered the Greatest Laker of All-Time by the majority of hoops fans, he will be in a year or so.
• Ron Artest was simply bad ass. He played 46 minutes, scored 20 points on 7-18 shooting, and he was probably the reason Boston didn’t bother going to Paul Pierce down the stretch. Describing his play throughout the Finals as uneven is probably a little generous — I still love Phil Jackson describing Artest dribbling out the clock in Game 2 when the Lakers desperately needed a basket as “one of the more unusual sequences I’ve ever witnessed.” But he played about the best he could have played last night, including nailing a 3 with a minute to go to put L.A. up 6.
And then after the game he gifted us with this: