For a second consecutive year the Lakers were standing at center court holding the Larry Oâ€™Brien NBA Championship Trophy. (Photo by Jeff Lewis)
The Lakers are known as a finesse team that relies on their offense, but their defense won them Game 7. (Photo by Jeff Lewis)
Lakers now only one title behind the Celtics
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Sports Editor
After gritting their way through a grueling seven game series against the hated Boston Celtics, the Lakers are now only one NBA championship behind them.Â The new tally is Celtics-17 titles, Lakers-16.
This title meant so much to the Lakers.Â Way more than last yearâ€™s title over the Orlando Magic.Â This title was not just for this current team, but for all of the Lakers greats.Â For Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, the late Wilt Chamberlain, Gail Goodrich, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, Pat Riley, and any other Lakers player or coach that tangled with the Celtics, mostly coming up on the losing end.
Since the â€˜60s the Celtics have held the distinction of being the greatest franchise in the NBA, mostly because they held the most titles.
Leading into the 1985 season the Celtics held a 14-6 title lead over the Lakers (eight of those Celtics title wins came over the Lakers), and the Lakers had never defeated Boston in the NBA Finals.Â Since then the Lakers have defeated the Celtics three times in the NBA Finals and are now only one title behind them.
This Lakers team was not only trying to win a title, they were chasing history.Â They were running down a team that historically has been better than them.Â That has historically beaten them to every punch.
Before Game 7, Cedric Maxwell, who helped the Celtics beat the Lakers in the 1984 Finals, was asked why he thought that the Celtics would beat the Lakers again.Â He stated that the Celtics had already beaten the Lakers nine times for the championship, and had routinely defeated the Lakers when it mattered the most, so why would this time be any different?Â Maxwellâ€™s Celtics attitude was what the Lakers were playing against.Â An attitude that said that the Celtics were just better, an attitude that said that the Celtics just do not lose to the Lakers.
A loss would have meant that this current Lakers team would go down as a titleless team.Â The Celtics and their fans would have said that if Kevin Garnett had not been hurt last year that they would have beaten the Lakers then too.Â And it would have been hard to argue against that.
This win says that not only are the Lakers better this year, but they would have also beaten the Celtics last year if they had shown up.Â The Lakers truly defended their title.Â Their toughness, not their finesse, brought them through.Â Their grit, not their grace, won them this title.
This may have been one of the toughest games that any Lakers team has won.Â The Celtics for 3 Â½ quarters looked like the team that always outclasses the Lakers, and the Lakers looked like the team that has always played second fiddle to the Celtics.
Down by 13 points midway through the third period, the game looked like it was a wrap.Â The Lakers simply could not make a basket.Â But they showed that by playing with determination that they could get every loose ball, every rebound, and every break to go their way to climb back in the game.Â This team did not want to lose that game and found the will to send the Celtics back to Boston without the trophy.
Kobe Bryant deservingly is the Finals MVP, but Ron Artestâ€™s determination carried the team through a tough Game 7.Â Artest had become the whipping boy when the Lakers lost, but there is no doubt that this team would not have won this series without his defense and toughness.
Artest does not put up pretty stats, but his hustle is unmatched.Â He took away possessions from the Celtics with key steals, and he came up with timely baskets.Â Game 7 has made Artest a true Laker because he played the game of his life when it mattered the most.
Watching Artest celebrate after the victory was one of the most pleasing moments of the night.Â He has been on a roller coaster ride the entire season, especially in the playoffs.Â Afterwards he thanked his hood, his family, his psychiatrist, and he announced the release of his hip-hop single titled â€œChampion,â€ which he recorded over a year ago.Â It was pure comedy.
This team would have also come up on the losing end without the timely plays of Derek Fisher.Â He may be old, a little slow, but when the team needs him, he is there to make the play.Â In the Game 3 victory he was there to put the team on his back.Â In Game 7 he hit the big 3-point shot to tie the game late in the fourth period and the Lakers never looked back.
Many fans were hoping that this would be Fisherâ€™s final season after a tough regular season, but those same fans are now hoping that the veteran guard returns for one more year.Â He is just a winner.
This Lakers team did not want a second loss to the Celtics on their resume.Â They did not want to watch the Celtics celebrate on their court.Â They knew that the Celtics did not respect them, so they rose up and took the respect.
Last yearâ€™s championship meant a lot, especially for Bryant, who was told by many that he could not win a title without Shaquille Oâ€™Neal.Â But this yearâ€™s title was so much more meaningful because of the history between the Lakers and Celtics.
A few more numbers to tally up:Â Kobe, five titles, Shaq, four.Â Bryant pointed that out in the post game interviews.Â When asked what this title meant to him he simply stated, â€œWell I have five titles, and Shaq has four.â€Â Shaq will not be matching Kobe in that battle.
Another tally, Phil Jackson 11 titles, Red Auerbach nine.Â Obviously Red will not be catching Phil.
The only thing sweeter than this title would be if this Celtics team could muster up one more run at the title next year, so the Lakers can beat them again.Â The core of this Lakers team, minus Fisher, will be returning.Â So another title run is already in the works, especially if they can convince Jackson to return as the head coach.