Seven Moments that Defined Game 7

Jeff Skibiski —  June 19, 2010

Game 7 was an historic defensive war that will be remembered for generations to come not for a single defining play, but instead for its series of grueling mini-battles that made a monumental difference in deciding the outcome of the game. While devoid of an “MJ over Russell” type of moment, it was still very much ripe with drama and in a lot of cases, from unlikely sources. With two days gone by since the confetti-filled celebration at STAPLES, let’s take a look back at seven pivotal moments that helped lead the Lakers to their sixteenth NBA championship.

7:40, 2nd quarter: With the Lakers falling behind early and Kobe admittedly feeling the effects of a season of injuries, the forum blue and gold desperately needed someone to step up. Enter: Ron Artest. Kobe’s legs literally gave up on him during this play, forcing him into a difficult attempt that narrowly beat the shot clock buzzer, before missing badly. Luckily, Artest came to the rescue with a put-back that reclaimed the lead for the Lakers. Ron’s offensive board was one of a dominating 23 for the Lake Show on the night, compared to only eight for the Celtics.

1:22, 2nd quarter: The Lakers were desperate for a spark heading into halftime after Boston stymied their early second quarter momentum. Once again, it was Artest who literally and figuratively stepped up to the Celtics, refusing to back down after becoming entangled with Paul Pierce underneath the basket. The C’s came out with their fists up in Game 7 and though it isn’t something that will show up on the stat sheet, I think the team really needed someone to shake things up – a role Ron was practically born into.

3:48, 3rd quarter: Down by nine points with under four minutes to go in the third quarter, the Lakers were quickly arriving at fight or flight time. Lamar Odom, who had a timely seven points to go along with seven boards on the night, barreled down, channeled his inner Magic and sailed past Kevin Garnett for an easy layup that began the Lakers’ epic charge in the game’s final 15 minutes.

6:14, 4th quarter: Did anyone really think a Game 7 would go by without Derek Fisher putting his stamp on it? Fish did just that, nailing one of his signature rainbows from beyond the arc to tie the game at 64 nearing the halfway point of the fourth, immediately resulting in a timeout for Boston. While most people will probably remember Derek’s spellbinding fourth quarter performance in Game 3 of this series, his second of only two treys in Game 7 was every bit as meaningful.

5:22, 4th quarter: After finally getting over the proverbial hump to take a two point lead, Kobe took advantage of an isolation against Ray Allen, connecting on a jumper that pushed the lead to four. Bryant’s basket wasn’t anything special in and of itself, but who didn’t breathe a collective sigh of relief when that shot went down? Even in one of the worst shooting performances of his career, #24 still found a way to contribute down the stretch and his Game 7 performance should be remembered for that, not his field goal percentage. On a side note, this play was also significant as it came immediately after another crucial wide open second half miss from Allen. If just two or three of his 11 misses in 14 attempts goes down, we might be talking about a whole other topic right now.

1:56, 4th quarter: “The Spaniard” was one of the first people Kobe credited during the MVP trophy presentation and rightfully so. Like Bryant, Gasol struggled from the field, shooting only 6-16, yet he racked up 18 rebounds and two blocked shots – the most important of which came in the final two minutes of the game. With the Lakers clinging to a precarious four point lead, Pau delivered an emphatic message to the Celtics, blocking Pierce’s layup attempt before sinking his own shot under the hoop to give the Lakers a six point lead that they never relinquished. The final six minutes of the game in general were a role reversal from the previous three and a half quarters as it was the L.A., not Boston, who consistently responded to the Celtics’ mini rallies.

1:31, 4th quarter: Give the Celtics credit; they refused to back down even when it looked like they were dead in the water during the game’s final minute. Point and case: L.A. takes what looks to be a semi-commanding six point lead at 76-70 and Rasheed Wallace nails a three to bring it back to a one possession game. Thankfully, Game MVP Artest’s perfect timing isn’t just reserved for his post-game comedy routines as he delivered a three-point dagger that sent STAPLES Center into pandemonium. I’m not sure I was breathing at all for the final six minutes of the game, but Ron Ron’s triple was probably the closest I came to exhaling for the next half an hour. It was an especially fitting, if not ironic climax in a season where most fans screamed in horror every time Artest shot the ball from the perimeter. On Thursday, they serenaded him with cheers of joy instead.

An honorable mention goes to Sasha Vujacic for hitting the two most clutch free throws of the game and his life. His two freebies in the final seconds of the game encapsulated 48 punishing minutes of basketball that didn’t need a game-winning shot to transform Game 7 into an instant classic. This latest clash with the Celtics was won through a series of smaller moments that added up to one giant Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.

Jeff Skibiski

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35 responses to Seven Moments that Defined Game 7

  1. That was the most satisfying basketball victories i have ever witnessed in my life time, I will cherish it always.

  2. Also, thanks for another great article, appreciate all you guys do with this blog its been an amazing year.

  3. thisisweaksauce June 19, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Another moment: Bill Russell getting booed by the Lakers faithful. Haha, just kidding.

  4. A good series of videos, thank you for putting it together. What I especially like about it is that only one of seven game-changing moments was a shot by Kobe. For the other six, it’s his team that steps up, embraces the moment without fear, and gets the job done.

    As Al Pacino once said, in one of the best performances of his career, we live as a team and we die as individuals. What won the Lakers this trophy was solid, trusting, never-surrendering team work, and that makes me even more proud of them.

  5. j.d. hastings June 19, 2010 at 4:24 pm

    Thanks for the chills, man. I don’t know how long it’ll take to get over that game.

    The sound the crowd makes at the Artest 3 contains the same emotion you see as Kobe runs down Odom’s pass as time expired. We all felt it.

    It wasn’t just joy, and it wasn’t disbelief or a simple reaction to a play. It was transcendant relief. This moment is finally here. The great exhalation after being caught under a set of waves too long. I don’t know what the word for that feeling was but I don’t remember having another like it.

    I’m an eternal pessimist yet even as everything went wrong over and over in that game I kept feeling the Lakers would win- they’d somehow find a way. And as they slowly eked it out with EVERY play having huge significance that feeling was just cemented into place. It wasn’t about joy so much as faith. A brutal coming to a brutal end.

    People have talked about Kobe and Pau’s rebounds in passing, but the fact that every possession was amplified by the brutal nature of the game makes all of them that much more significant. Kobe plus Pau had 33 rebounds to the Celtics’ 40. Kobe’s rebounds in the fourth quarter- selfish and intent all of them- were as big as any series of clutch shots he’s ever taken. To gloss over them in favor of his FG% is a complete misunderstanding of the nature of this game.

    I’ve never experienced a game like this and aren’t sure I could survive experiencing another…

  6. We all talk about the many aspects of the game, but us fans – as well as the talking heads – tend to only quote the shooting statistics when we evaluate a performance.

    j.d. hastings — you are so correct when you talk about those 4th qtr rebounds. It would be nice if people remembered Kobe’s rebounding and defense (everyone’s defense) when talking about this game.

  7. @Craig and j.d

    I don’t know about you, but after listening to Kobe describing how exhausted he was during the game, and after watching his refusal to give up, I am nothing but impressed.

    We all know what exhaustion feels like, and we all know what it’s like to push through physical pain to get something done, and we have all been in situations of mental and emotional pressure. Kobe was facing more of all of those than I think I can imagine, and yet he resolved to rebound and play defense, since his shots weren’t falling, because he knew he had to help the team somehow. When he got to the line he made his free throws, because he knew he had to help the team somehow.

    If there ever was a game that was a testament to Kobe’s mental toughness and resolve it was this Game 7. It would have been so easy to give up and just go through the motions, but he refused to let that happen. He actively looked for a way to get back in the game, and he succeeded.

    Ignore the numbers for a moment and look at the way his play and his body language changed between the first half and the second half. The way he allowed his team mates to step in and help him, listened to them and gathered strength and energy from them, and with their help, came through and in the end won this championship.

    That, on top of everything else, is why he belongs in the pantheon of NBA’s Greatest of All Time players. Because true greatness gets back up and keeps fighting, no matter how many times it gets knocked off its feet, and eventually, because it refuses to give up, true greatness remains great.

  8. Regarding the shooting percentages, unfortunately that’s the easy thing for people to focus on. When even GM’s look at that in evaluating a player, how does one expect casual fans to look past that?

    Remember the Battier defending Kobe article? One of my takeaways from that article was how there’s a high value given by GM’s to scoring in evaluating a player. Not enough of it to all the other aspects of the game. Kind of sad in that regards.

  9. I thought that foul Kobe drew from the three point line — And actually hitting the three free throws was huge too. As well as that foul after a Kobe rebound that put the celts in the penalty.

    J.D. .. I had the same feeling. Despite the shooting percentages, it felt like we’ll make shots eventually, but the effort on rebounding would stick especially considering Perkins was out. If Kobe/Pau made their freethrows the first half the game would’ve been tied despite the FG%.. Just felt like the game would turn around.

  10. chownoir,
    It pays to remember that there are only a few really good GMs – even fewer who are backed by good owners. People talk about the Lakers and Celtics having over half the NBA titles throughout history. Well, there may be a reason for this beyond the geographical location of the franchises.

    John Wooden taught his players to maximize their own particular strengths, then optimized their physical conditioning, finally gave them a game plan that focused what the team could do well.

    Phil Jackson determines a role for each of his players that fits their skill set (and often their interests), then constructs a game plan that has a place for each of those roles. Throughout the year he forces his players to think for themselves within their role. Finally, by the end of the year, the team is able to adapt to different styles of play without having to be constantly directed by the coaches.

    All this planning and coordination is so far beyond simple shooting % or PER that it is like a horse getting into a drag race with a 427 Cobra.

  11. By the second half I wasn’t so much watching a basketball game as a receptacle for a mess of emotions. It’s like trying to a remember a vivid dream – you don’t remember anything that happened, surprised you ever existed during that experience, but a few particular moments cannot escape and are permanently burned into your psyche. And that’s what these plays are.

    Thank you to all the FB&G’ers for making these memories even more special, as we reveled together in the ups and downs of these moments.

  12. It seems almost surreal that 48 hours ago I was under so much stress, and now…

    Just the free and easy glow of #16…

    btw, I’ve looked far and wide: did Pierce make a single comment or answer a single reporter’s question after the loss? I’ve read or seen quotes from the rest of the team, but it’s as if, after he left through the chute, he rode his magic wheelchair to a place only he can go.

  13. @lil’pau — Pierce was interviewed by the media in the locker room after the game, and it was broadcast on NBA TV (I think — could have been on the main ABC broadcast, but the immediate aftermath of the game is all a blur for me). He was actually somewhat gracious — not nearly as obnoxious as he was all series (and in 2008). Still, watching him (and the rest of the Celtics) slink off the court as the purple and gold confetti was falling was one of the best moments in my life.

  14. Warren Wee Lim June 19, 2010 at 8:37 pm

    Sup guys… I guess my no-post Mantra worked! I really had too much invested on it to resist posting and all but now that it has paid off, I must say its ALL WORTH IT!

    LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLAAAAAAAAAAKERSSSS !!!!

    I must say it was both fun and painful to grind out that game 7 win but the sweet is never the sweet without the bitter ;)

    Congrats everyone!

  15. What’s ridiculous is the way some people are trying to cast this game as some kind of humiliation for Kobe. There’s this thing on the New Republic website (I know, you bother with one of those highbrow-magazine-goes-slumming things you get what you deserve) that tries to portray it as ”the worst shooting performance in a Game 7 since the Knicks’ John Starks completely collapsed in 1994.” (Starks went 2 for 11 and scored 8 points.) This comparison conveniently ignores the facts that no one on the court except Kevin Garnett had a good shooting night, that Gasol and Artest were both under 40%, that though 25% is bad it’s still a lot better than 11%, and most critically that despite his percentage Kobe still led all scorers. I guess it’s a tribute to how deeply statistical analysis has entered people’s thinking that they’ve forgotten how in the game of basketball the winner is determined by totaling how many points were scored, not how many attempts were missed. And when they grouse about Kobe’s “tantrums over the refereeing” you have to wonder if these people ever watched Magic Johnson play. Magic used to treat every call against him as a personal betrayal. He’d get this look of open-mouthed shock and dismay on his face, as if to say “How could you do this to me!”

    There’s been a lot of commentary about how LeBron James was pilloried for a performance that was statistically far superior to Kobe’s because it was in a losing cause. What this comparison actually proves is the fallacy of the deceased “Kobe can’t win without Shaq” canard. If Pau Gasol had been a Cleveland Cavalier it would have been LeBron who was lifting the finals championship and MVP trophies over his head. The truth is that no team can win a championship with just one star. Shaq couldn’t win without Kobe or Wade, Jordan couldn’t win without Pippen, Duncan couldn’t win without Robinson or Ginobli.

  16. Does anyone know if the Association Lakers special that was on ESPN and narrated by Andy Garcia is planning on being released on DVD? That was one of my favorite things I saw on TV all year and would love to own it (adding it to the Championship dvd from this season).

  17. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHt4HtaEGqQ

    Ron Artest’s single champion.

  18. Coolrunnings, I downloaded that earlier today, I have to give the man credit it’s actually a pretty solid song. Probably the best attempt ever by an athlete to rap (and personally I think I am very critical of alot of rap music and only listen to quality artists). Would I buy an album from him? No, but the song is definitely worth the download.

  19. thisisweaksauce June 20, 2010 at 1:14 am

    Hey guys, this is out of left field, but what do you guys think of Spero Dedes doing the play by play for the Lakers on TV (instead of Joel Meyers)? I really like his voice and play-by-play; on radio, he really brings the game alive. Maybe if enough people like this idea, it can pick up some steam…

    I hope this doesn’t fall under speculation, haha.

    What a game 7.

  20. Just watching and smiling.

  21. Is it me or does Kobe now deserve a spot next to Magic and Jerry on the FB&G background at the top of the page? 5 titles, a Season MVP, 2 Finals MVPs, 12 All-Star Apperances, 8 All NBA First Team selections, 8 All Defense First Team selections, Franchise Record holder for points in a game and career points with the Lakers. It seems like he’s contributed an awful lot, and, much like the above pair, he’s a career Laker.

  22. http://www.celticsblog.com/2010/6/17/1524076/just-not-enough#comments

    it’s funny how quickly the thread is about the bad foul calls in the 4th, a conspiracy in the NBA to give the Lakers the title.

  23. one of the sweetest post-game “moments” has been the silence from Bill Simmons on game 7, save for one pot-shot at Kobe’s 6-24 shooting and a reference to his dad having a bad time going to the game.

  24. A loss would have been our most bitter since the 60`s(to the Celtics at home in 7 games) I was disappointed that West and Baylor were not at the game(didn`t see them). Allen`s record for 3 pt`s(good and bad) says everything about the basketball gods and predictions by so-called pundits.

  25. In his song, Artest says he loves Game 7, but he openly admitted that he hated Game 7 during his postgame interview… I’m calling bullshit.

  26. thisisweaksauce,
    Myers has a great voice, but he is a really bland announcer, while Stu is repetitive to the extreme. Also, after Chick, both seem to suffer from a case of no criticism of the Lakers players or plays. I think that comes from the Buss organization and a case of “no b*lls”.

    I also think Spero Dedes would be a noticeable improvement over Joel and have been talking about that for a couple of years.

    I don’t know how to cure the “no b*lls” situations – except to grow some and risk the wrath.

  27. Artest, Artest, Artest. That’s the one big difference between 2008 and 2010, someone whose crazy the bully Celtics respect. I think of all the tangles he got into with Pierce off the ball, getting into his head. I love the image of Pierce’s headband askew almost over his eyes, like some kind of victim in a Three Stooges comedy.

  28. chris h,
    Reading through the comments, I saw only one that said the Cs were tired in the 4th; in response to the refs changing how they were calling the game.

    I think this is a key to the 4th qtr play. I saw Kobe really holding onto his shorts AFTER a timeout – he was exhausted. I think the big 3 were just as tired and Doc commented that he didn’t know how Rasheed remained standing toward the end. While the exhausted Lakers continued to drive the lane, initiating contact, the Celtics started standing around more – no calls for stationary jumpshooting.

    I have heard people comment about Kobe’s rebounds, but continually getting the boards in the 4th – while totally gassed – shows an incredible amount of focus and heart. Kobe forced his body into a place where mere mortals simply do not have the capacity to go – and he made his freethrows instead of leaving them a bit short too.

  29. I would love to see the Lakers reach out to T-Mac. He might even come for less than the MLE. He has been making big money doing nothing, and taking a paycut could rehabilitate his career and image. Ron Artest just proved that anyone can be redeemed in the appropriate circumstances. Think what a key role on a NBA championship team would do for McGrady’s career arc. Phil LOVES big guards for the triangle.

    I have always admired his game, I think he would fit in perfectly in Los Angeles. We wouldn’t ask him to do too much, he can be the first guard off the bench.

  30. busterjonez,
    He is not a good fit for the triangle – requires the ball too much to be effective – and he just doesn’t have much left, either in his legs or his shot.

  31. Great collection! I watched the 2nd half again last night and would have come up with the same list. Odom’s energy and drive were a big momentum shift.

    Not only a great way to win a championship, but a great way to start the next season. Everyone seemed to do something big in the clutch — Fisher’s 3, Artest overall (wow!), Sasha’s poise, Pau at both ends, Bryant’s rebounds, on and on . . .

  32. I have not had any kind of cable for like 7 months due to financial struggles. I however was able to catch these Finals at my moms house because of it being on ABC. Thank you ESPN, ABC, and all its affiliates for making this series watchable. An absolute joy to watch history in the making. Thank you to all whom were involved in the making of this series of videos. If you ever want to see some or any kind of team effort to be inspired, look back to this series when it comes out on video, because I promise, it will come out on video & I’ll be up there buying this most epic battle. That is exactly what this great series was,,,,A BATTLE……………

  33. If the lakers lost this game, Kobe would have taken a big hit. 6 for 24, and it was ugly for 3 quarters. Personally i have never seen him shoot so bad before. The pressure, his legs, injuries, overall fatigue and hands down one of the best defensive teams ever all contributed. The fact that he managed 15 boards, 23 points and helped his team win the game will be remembered for a long, long time. What could have been a disaster is now one of Kobe’s greatest chapters.

  34. I expect the Lakers to have a great run again next season. Hopefully L.A. will bring in Steve Blake and/or Wright from Miami, let farmar walk and maybe Bynum will stay healthy for the majority of the year. Depending on how much Kobe allows the game to come to him (which he has to do more of with age) instead of trying to take over, playing himself into exhaustion. Lakers may go for 70 wins next year and yet another 3 peat. Can’t tell you how proud i am of the Lakers and especially Kobe!!