Celtics drown Lakers, take title
By: By TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
BOSTON (AP) — A blizzard of green-and-white confetti was in the forecast, a shiny trophy was being readied for its trip to the center of the parquet floor and T-shirts and caps were hurriedly handed out to the rest of the new NBA champions.
First, though, a final, fitting bow.
The clock said 4:01 left, and the scoreboard read: Boston 116, Los Angeles 81.
It was time for Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to come out — together.
“I thought, they came in as a group, and I thought we should take them out as a group,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
The Big Three walked off as one, and into history.
With Bill Russell and John Havlicek sitting courtside, and Red Auerbach surely lighting up a victory cigar somewhere, these Celtics returned to glory like the great Boston teams before them, dominating the Los Angeles Lakers 131-92 in Game 6 on Tuesday night.
For Pierce, Garnett and Allen, this was moment they had waited for, the one they used to wonder would ever arrive.
But they sacrificed individual acclaim for team success, and with Rivers as their guide, the trio brought Boston back to the top with title No. 17.
“I’ll be forever linked to this city,” said Garnett, who toiled for years in Minnesota. “And I’m more than grateful for that.”
Almost an hour afterward, Pierce, the finals MVP who a year ago thought his days in Boston were over, strolled back onto the court.
“I didn’t want a championship,” he yelled to no one in particular. “I needed a championship. I ain’t going nowhere. I’m spending the night.”
In the closing minutes, Boston fans sang as if they were in a nearby pub, celebrating the first NBA championship won in the city since 1986.
They serenaded the newest champs with “Seven-teen” and taunted Kobe Bryant and his Lakers, who were buried by a green-and-white avalanche.
Garnett scored 26 points with 14 rebounds, Allen scored 26 and Pierce, who shook off a sprained right knee sustained in Game 1, added 17 for the Celtics, a 24-win team a year ago. Rajon Rondo had 21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals.
Boston built a 23-point halftime lead and obliterated the Lakers, who were trying to become the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the league’s finals.
The 39-point win surpassed the NBA record for the biggest margin of victory in a championship clincher; the Celtics beat the Lakers 129-96 in Game 5 of the 1965 NBA finals.
As the clock ticked down, Pierce doused Rivers with red Gatorade.
Owner Wyc Grousbeck, who named his group Banner 17 to leave no doubt about his goal, put an unlit cigar in his mouth — a tribute to Auerbach, the patriarch who had a hand in the franchise’s first 16 titles.
Garnett dropped to the parquet and kissed the leprechaun at center court and then found Russell, the Hall of Famer who taught him the Celtic way, for a long embrace.
“You know you’re a Celtic when other players come up and congratulate you to be here,” said Garnett, the centerpiece of a 7-for-1 trade pulled off last summer by Boston general manager Danny Ainge, a former Celtics guard. “They explain the tradition. It’s like coming into a frat.”
It was Boston’s first title since the passing of Auerbach, and following the game TD Banknorth Garden, the “new” Garden, smelled of one of his stogies.
He must have been smiling as the Celtics denied Lakers coach Phil Jackson from overtaking him with a 10th NBA championship.
The Boston-Los Angeles rivalry, nothing more than black-and-white footage from the 60s and TV highlights of players wearing short shorts in the 80s to young hoops fans, remains tilted toward the Atlantic Ocean. The Celtics are 9-2 against the Lakers in the finals.
Boston missed its first crack at closing out the series in Game 5, but the Celtics didn’t miss on their second swing, running the Lakers out of the gym.
“Beat L.A.?” More like “Beaten L.A.”
Bryant, the regular-season MVP, finished with 22 points on 7-of-22 shooting.
He started 4-of-5 from the field and seemed intent on forcing a Game 7. But he missed seven shots in a row and everywhere he went, L.A.’s No. 24 ran smack into a wall of Boston defense as high as the Green Monster.
“They were definitely the best defense I’ve seen the entire playoffs,” Bryant said. “I’ve seen some pretty stiff ones and this was right up there with them. The goal was to win a championship, it wasn’t to win MVP or anything like that, it was to win a championship.”
With Garnett scoring 17 points and Pierce adding 10, Boston built a 58-35 halftime lead, and unlike Game 2 when they let the Lakers trim a 24-point lead to two in the fourth quarter before recovering, the Celtics never stopped.
They pushed their lead to 31 in the third and a mind-blowing 43 at one point.
No team had to work harder for a championship than these Celtics, who were playing in their record 26th postseason game after being pushed to seven by Atlanta and Cleveland before beating Detroit in six to win the Eastern Conference title.
They entered Game 6 slowed by injuries as Pierce, Kendrick Perkins (shoulder) and Rondo (ankle) were less than 100 percent. There was also uncertainty surrounding Allen, who stayed behind in Los Angeles following Game 5 after his youngest son became ill and was diagnosed with diabetes. The Celtics needed three planes to get back from L.A. and didn’t get home until late Monday night.
But there were no excuses, and just as they had while winning 66 games during the regular season, the Celtics got a record seven 3-pointers from Allen and plenty of help from their bench as P.J. Brown, James Posey, Leon Powe and rookie Glen “Big Baby” Davis came in and contributed.
It was a group effort by this gang in green, which bonded behind Rivers, who borrowed an African word ubuntu (pronounced Ooh-BOON-too) and roughly means “I am, because we are” in English, as the Celtics’ unifying team motto.
Rivers, who never won a title during 13 seasons as a player, was nearly run out of town last season as the proud Celtics dropped off the league’s radar screen. But he remained confident, boosted by encouragement from his father, Grady, a former police lieutenant who told him to hang tough.
Grady Rivers died in the season’s first week, and never got to see his son fulfill his dream.
As the final seconds ticked off, Rivers recalled his father.
“My first thought was what would my dad say,” Rivers said, “and honestly I started laughing because I thought he would probably say, if you knew my dad, ’It’s about time. What have you been waiting for?”’
Notes: The Celtics set a finals record with 18 steals. … Allen was poked in the left eye in the second quarter by Lamar Odom and spent much of the second quarter getting treatment in the locker room. … The Celtics joined Golden State (1974-75) and Portland (1976-77) as the only teams to win a championship after missing the playoffs the previous year. … Boston went 48-7 at home, including 13-1 in the postseason. … Jackson is 193-84 in the postseason.