LOS ANGELES -- There have been a lot of classic NBA Finals games played between the Celtics and Lakers. Last night wasn't one of them.
"Thank you Lakers and Celtics for another classic," NBA commissioner David Stern said in the post-game coronation following the Lakers' 83-79 Game 7 victory.
You and I have a different definition of classic, Mr. Commissioner. This game was U-G-L-Y from the start with the Celtics and Lakers staggering to the Finals finish line. Neither team had broken the 60-point barrier with 9:00 left in the fourth quarter. However, for the Lakers this one resembles Scarlett Johansson in pulchritude today. For the Celtics it's an unsightly setback.
"Obviously, it wasn't the prettiest game as far as shooting the ball and stuff like that," said Pau Gasol, who finished with a manly 19 points and 18 rebounds. "But we fought extremely hard. ...I think 53 rebounds, 23 offensive rebounds just tells you how much this team fought to be able to become champions."
Game 7 was tense, tight and intense but not anything to archive in Springfield for future generations to enjoy. The Finals deserved a better ending and so did these Celtics, who were a joy to watch in the postseason, repenting all their sins of the regular season.
That's what makes it hurt even more this morning if you're a Celtics fan. It was right there for the taking. It should have been the Celtics on that stage celebrating their second title in three seasons and passing around the Larry O'Brien trophy. Kobe Bryant and the Lakers came out so tight it looked like somebody put botox in their Gatorade, and LA tried its best to choke, gag and cough up the title on their own court, except the Celtics wouldn't -- or couldn't -- take it.
There was no Grady Little moment, no David Tyree play, no Bruins-esque collapse for the Celtics, just a game that got away gradually.
The Green couldn't hold a 13-point second-half lead and after shooting 44 percent in the first half they shot 37.8 percent the rest of the way. This was an eminently winnable game for Boston, and that's something that's going to haunt the Celtics for the rest of the summer.
"...Tonight was definitely a lost opportunity," said Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, who had 14 points, 10 assists and 8 rebounds. "We had a big lead, even in the second half but they made a run and we couldn't stop it."
The Lakers deserve credit for holding the Celtics to 67 points in Game 6 and 79 in Game 7, but their offense in the finale was offensive.
The ugly truth is neither team really deserved to win this game with its play. Can we have a do-over? The Lakers "won" while shooting a ghastly 32.5 percent from the floor. Bryant, who had 23 points and 15 rebounds, was 6 of 24, airmailed passes like JaMarcus Russell and generally booted the ball around like he was David Beckham.
In the first quarter, Kobe launched a shot that hit the side of the backboard and an airball 3-pointer while falling out of bounds by the Lakers' bench. It was not the stuff of legends for the Finals MVP, who finally admitted that his whole cool detachment persona during the playoffs was just a front.
At the half, Kobe (3 of 14) and Gasol (3 of 12) were a combined 6 of 26. The Lakers as a team shot 26.5 percent, but only trailed by six (40-34).
"Kobe didn't beat us. It was the rebounding," said Glen "Big Baby" Davis.
Without the services of center Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics were decimated on the boards, as for the seventh game the team that won the rebound race won the game and ultimately the series.
The Lakers best offense was to simply throw the ball up off the rim and then retrieve the carom. They outrebounded the Celtics, 53-32. The biggest play of the game was Gasol taking a rebound away from Rondo with the Celtics trailing by three (79-76), forcing them to foul Bryant, who canned the free throws with 25.7 seconds left.
Ah, yes, free throws. Kobe and Co., were bailed out by Joey Crawford, Dan Crawford and Scott Foster. After three quarters the free throw discrepancy was five -- 16 for the Lakers and 11 for the Celtics. The final free throw differential was 37-17 for the Lakers. LA scored 16 of its 30 fourth quarter points from the charity stripe and that's with five misses.
Another sign of LA's nervous, jittery play was their 67.6 percent free throw percentage.
If this truly was the end for the Big Three -- Ray Allen is a free agent -- and/or coach Doc Rivers it was an unfortunate ending to a brief but brilliant period in Celtics history. These guys deserved to go out champions. As Rivers pointed out after the game, the Celtics' starting lineup from the 2008 championship in tact is still undefeated in the playoffs.
Rivers certainly sounded like a man who was ready to step away, and he let it be known after the game that Rasheed Wallace, who gave a professional accounting of himself with 11 points and 8 rebounds in 36 oxygen-starved minutes, planned to hang it up.
The Lakers will be hanging up another banner in Staples Center. Officially the championship chase is 17-16, Boston.
Sorry, Lakers, you can't claim 16 world titles when in your own arena you only hang banners for the "Los Angeles Lakers" titles and cram the five crowns won in Minneapolis on one banner. No disrespect to Chick Hearn, but it's disgraceful that he has a retired jersey hanging in Staples Center and Hall of Fame players George Mikan and Clyde Lovellette have their names on a banner shared with four others.
There is some irony in the fact that the Los Angeles Lakers, who play in the most superficial and aesthetic-obsessed city in America, ended up winning the title not with style but with substance.
Just don't call it a classic performance.
...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.