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Aftermath of finals roundup 06.18.10 at 4:01 pm ET
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After the final buzzer sounded on Thursday night’s Game 7, the Celtics’ improbable run at banner 18 ended as Kobe Bryant and the Lakers repeated to win their second consecutive title. Despite the NBA season coming to an end, storylines after the game flowed like the streamers and confetti in the Staples Center. Here’s a roundup of what national and local writers are saying after the finale of a classic series.

– Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports wrote a column on this being Kobe Bryant’s most difficult title out of his five championships. After struggling in Game 7 and nearly shooting the Lakers out of the game, Bryant began to trust his teammates, especially in the fourth quarter, which brought him another ring.

– With his fifth ring, Bryant surpasses Magic Johnson as the greatest Laker of all time, writes Chris Broussard of ESPN. Magic, who has also won five championships, always won with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, whereas Bryant has done it with and without Shaquille O’Neal, contends Broussard. Against other Lakers greats such as Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain, Bryant outranks them with his handful of rings.

– Though he coached a team to a championship for the 11th time in his career, Phil Jackson’s future is uncertain. T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times writes that Jackson has no idea where or he’ll be next year and that his salary might be too rich for the Lakers.

– Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe feels that Pau Gasol and not Kobe Bryant is the true MVP of the finals. Ryan writes that Gasol was the real closer with his offensive rebound and basket in the final two minutes to cap off his 19-point, 18-rebound effort. While Bryant had some great performances in the series, it was Gasol who was the most consistent Laker.

– On the Boston side, Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports views a lot of changes on the way for the Celtics. The most uncertainty is with the decision coach Doc Rivers will have to make on whether or not to return. The 48-year-old could depart the Celtics to spend more time with his family in Orlando and watch his sons play basketball.

– Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston writes that despite being an unrestricted free agent this summer, Ray Allen still wants to return to the Celtics. The question will be how much is Boston willing to pay and will Allen take a discount to stick with a very close group? Forsberg feels that at 35, Allen is getting up in age and likely won’t see a contract more than two years.

– The most surprising piece of information that came out after Game 7 was the news that Rasheed Wallace could retire after only one year with the Celtics. Gary Dzen and Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe write that after the loss, Rivers revealed that Wallace might walk away from the game. Wallace struggled to get through Thursday night after experiencing cramps and strains as he filled in for the injured Kendrick Perkins at center. The 35-year-old has played in three finals and made four All-Star teams.

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5 Things that Went Wrong in Game 7 at 12:07 am ET
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The Celtics lost Game 7 of the NBA Finals to the Lakers in Los Angeles on Thursday night, 83-79, falling short of their 18th championship. Here are five things that went wrong in the deciding game. (Click here for a recap of the Celtics’ loss.)

1. The Celtics gave it away - The Celtics were in control. They had the momentum and the confidence to get it done … before they let it all slip away. The Celtics led by 10 with seven minutes to go in the third quarter and had taken away the Lakers biggest weapon. But they began to miss shots and the Lakers were there to grab the rebounds. The C’s scored just three points in the final four minutes of the quarter and only led by four going into the final 12 minutes. The Lakers immediately got within two points seconds into the fourth, while the Celtics did not score for nearly three minutes. Bryant made three free throws to cut the Celtics advantage to one, and banked another two minutes later to give the Lakers the lead. Bryant scored four consecutive points to pull the Lakers ahead by four with 5:22 left, and they never looked back. The Celtics played catch up for the rest of the game as Bryant, Ron Artest, and Pau Gasol made critical baskets.

2. Kobe Bryant - The Celtics have battled past superstars the entire postseason, each time prevailing with team basketball. But after defeating Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard, they could not overcome the individual performance of Kobe Bryant. The Celtics held Bryant to just eight points (3-14 FG) in 22 minutes in the first half. When Bryant began to find his rhythm, though, the C’s failed to find an answer. Bryant scored 15 points in the second half, including four straight to tie the game and give the Lakers the lead with less than six minutes left. He finished the night with 23 points. It wasn’t his best offensive performance, but he made the shots when it counted.

3. Rebounding – The Celtics have said the entire series that the team that wins the rebounding war wins the game. On Thursday, they won neither. The Lakers outrebounded the Celtics, 53-40, including 23 offensive boards. This can’t be pinned on the injury of Kendrick Perkins, either. He alone doesn’t account for a 13-rebound differential. The Celtics had players capable of rebounding, but in the end, Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant combined for 33 boards while only Paul Pierce rebounded in double-digits for the C’s. Kevin Garnett, who the Celtics desperately needed defensively, grabbed just three rebounds.

4. Ray Allen - His monumental 3-point performance is all but forgotten after Ray Allen’s offensive struggles continued through Game 7. Allen shot just 3-for-14 from the field and scored 13 points. While he deserves credit for playing tough D on Bryant, his lack of production at the basket hurt the Celtics in a situation where they needed everyone scoring at full potential.

5. They Played Lakers Ball - The Celtics dominated the first half by feeding off their fundamentals of tough defense and team basketball. In the second half, however, it became showtime for Bryant and the Lakers. The Celtics failed to put together productive offensive possessions, rushed shots, and attempted forced baskets. In the end, they were forced to put the Lakers at the line, where they were outscored 25-15. They C’s began the season by beating the Cavaliers in Cleveland with Celtics basketball, and ended it by losing to the Lakers in Los Angeles by falling victim to their opponent’s game.

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Stephen A. Smith on D&C: Never seen Kobe this focused 06.17.10 at 7:56 am ET
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Stephen A. Smith

Stephen A. Smith

Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and radio host Stephen A. Smith joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning to talk about the NBA finals. To hear the interview, click on the Dennis & Callahan audio on demand page.

Smith said at least two of the Celtics’ top players must step up in Game 7, because he has no doubt Kobe Bryant will be at his best. “I have never seen him this focused,” Smith said of the Lakers star. “If he was this focused before Game 7, imagine how he’s going to be tonight.”

Talking about Rasheed Wallace, whose play becomes that much more important with the absence of injured starter Kendrick Perkins, Smith said: “As big as this game is, he is completely unfazed. … He’s not going to be nervous. At the same time, it’s a bad thing, because the urgency of the moment is not going to affect him. … Game 7 is not going to make him give you more.”

As for a prediction, Smith said that despite Bryant wanting it more than anyone else, “I picked the Boston Celtics to win this series, and I’m going to stick with it.” He also said to keep an eye on Nate Robinson, who could make a big impact with his outside shooting.

Smith also touched on Doc Rivers’ future, saying: “He gave me indications the other day that he would probably come back,” based on his relationship with the players.

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Tony Allen wants to re-sign with Celtics 06.15.10 at 12:06 am ET
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Tony Allen made it clear where he wants to play basketball next season.

“I am a Celtic,” he told WEEI.com. “I love being a Celtic. It’d mean everything in the world [return next season].”

Allen will be an unrestricted free agent after this season. He has garnered attention during the playoffs with his gritty defense against some of the league’s best perimeter scorers, most recently containing Kobe Bryant in the NBA finals.

While Allen attested that he is focused on winning a championship, not free agency — “I haven’t really thought about summer right now,” he said. “All I’m worried about is the finals.” — he hopes he has played his way to another contract in Boston.

Allen has spent his entire career with the Celtics. He was selected by the team with the 25th pick in the 2004 NBA Draft and signed his current two-year deal (worth $2.5 million a year) following the 2008 championship season.

Even though basketball is a business and the look of a team can change in an instant, Allen can’t imagine himself wearing anything but green next season.

“None whatsoever, none whatsoever,” he said. “I mean, things happen but I feel like I’m going to be a Celtic for life.”

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Mashburn on D&H: ‘No one man’ can beat Celtics 06.14.10 at 5:00 pm ET
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Jamal Mashburn

Jamal Mashburn

Former NBA player and current ESPN NBA analyst Jamal Mashburn appeared on the Dale & Holley show Monday afternoon to discuss the NBA finals, Kobe Bryant, and the coaching matchup and how it has thus far worked in the Celtics’ favor.

Following are some highlights. To hear the interview, click on the Dale & Holley audio on demand page.

Is there any way the Lakers lose three straight in the finals?

Well, you know what, it’s possible, if Kobe doesn’t get any help from some of his other supporting cast members, such as Lamar Odom and also Ron Artest on the offensive end. And we can discount Pau Gasol a little bit for his performance, he just had a bad game, but he’s been productive throughout the course of this series. But I think the real factor is the health of Andrew Bynum. … They don’t have any defense, nobody is stopping anybody at the rim. Paul Pierce was having his way with Ron Artest, and it’s going to be awfully difficult, but if anybody can do it and pull it off, it’s the Boston Celtics. They’ve been very good on the road in the regular season as well as in the postseason.

What did you expect after Game 2?

Well, my basketball mind told me that the Los Angeles Lakers would possibly get two out of the three games in Boston. I was sold after Game 3, when Derek Fisher had his performance in the fourth quarter, but then the Celtics just took over, but I did not see this coming. It seemed like the whole series, each game has had a personality of its own. If Boston can put it together, as far as their stars showing up, as far as their bench players showing up, and their defense continues to be stingy, Game 6 looks like theirs for the taking. But I’m awfully nervous when Game 7 comes around and you have Kobe Bryant on your team. And I think the Celtics should look at Game 6 as being their Game 7. Read the rest of this entry »

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For Lakers: Looks can be deceiving at 2:28 pm ET
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It was a fascinating study in the way a team handles pressure and accepts defeat on Sunday night at TD Garden.

Late in the fourth quarter, with the Celtics protecting their five-point lead in the final minute, Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce went for a missed shot in the lane. Bryant appeared to have the angle on the ball before Pierce came in like a hawk and grabbed right away.

Bryant then threw up both arms in frustration and then Pierce was fouled with the ball and the Lakers superstar began shaking his head in disgust and disbelief.

The sense of a chance getting away from the Lakers was written all over the ultra-competitive star’s face.

“They just got to every ball,” Bryant said. “Again, they played with more tenacity than we did in that stretch, and we have to do a much better job Game 6. we’re knocking at the door there a couple times and just couldn’t get through.

“Again tonight they got all the hustle points in terms of loose balls and offensive rebounds down the stretch. We didn’t convert.”

Then there’s Lamar Odom, the calm, cool, collected and still cocky Laker forward. After his team failed to take advantage of a legendary third-quarter performance by Kobe Bryant on Sunday night, Odom was asked why he seemed so confident heading back to Los Angeles for Game 6 on Tuesday.

“We love playing in the Staples,” Odom said of L.A.’s home court. “We know we can win on the road but it’s our turn to go back home.”

But with the Celtics just needing to repeat once what they did in Game 2 on the same court, don’t the Celtics have the advantage since L.A. needs two wins?

“That’s tough to say,” Odom said. “That’s a great question. That’s tough to say but I think the home team always has the advantage and the energy switches a little bit, helps you, laying in your own bed.

“We’ll respond. Our energy is still up as a team. Our confidence is still there. The series is not over.” Odom said.

Bryant summed up what’s in front of these Lakers if they want to avoid the same feeling they had two years ago against the Celtics.

“We have a challenge obviously down 3-2,” Bryant said. “We let a couple opportunities slip away. But it is what it is. Now you go home, you’ve got two games at home that you need to win, and you pull your boots up and get to work.”

Then Kobe was asked if he were still confident the Lakers can beat their arch-rival twice in three nights.

“I’m not very confident at all,” Bryant said with a sincere laugh.

Sarcasm might be the only trait Bryant, Odom and the Lakers share right now when it comes to playing the Celtics.

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What they’re saying about Celtics-Lakers at 2:19 pm ET
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Despite Kobe Bryant's heroic 38 point peformance Sunday night, the Celtics won Game 5, 92-86, and the media would not let Bryant hear the end of it. (AP)

Despite Kobe Bryant's heroic 38-point performance for the Lakers Sunday night, the Celtics won Game 5, 92-86, and the media would not let Bryant hear the end of it. (AP)

Fueled by a raucous TD Garden crowd, a bench that wouldn’t quit and an apparent lack of serious competition, the Celtics took a 3-2 series lead over the Lakers Sunday night with their 92-86 win. The storylines have stayed the same throughout the series. The C’s have stepped up and played as a team with a new leader emerging every game, while the Lakers have been inconsistent and led by one strong player, usually Kobe Bryant. Game 5 was just more of the same, and the national headlines the day after have told the same tale.

Los Angeles:

  • Most of the criticism against Kobe and the Lakers originates from LA:
    –  T.J. Simers of the LA Times writes the harshest criticism by refusing to call him by name, opting for Our Ball Hog instead.
    – Mark Medina from the Times’ Lakers Blog places the blame on the rest of the Lakers for not supporting their leader.
    – The LA Daily News’ Vincent Bonsignore discusses how calm and quiet Kobe was during the postgame press conference. Alongside that, Bonsignore says that the captain “really isn’t interested in prodding his teammates along with some fiery speech over the next few days.”
  • Bill Plaschke believes that this 2010 series is starting to resemble the 2008 series and it seems as though the Lakers are throwing in the towel.
  • The Lakers’ big men – Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum – have been largely ineffective and just taking up space on the court, writes Mike Bresnahan.
  • Meanwhile, the Daily News’ Elliot Teaford reports that Lamar Odom hasn’t been acting like his normal, bubbly self in and around the Lakers’ clubhouse this series because of his poor play.

National:

  • Jeff Zilgitt of USA Today chalks up the C’s Game 5 victory to their big four starters: Pierce, Rondo, Allen and Garnett.
  • Also from USA Today, Michael Falgoust noticed that Bryant’s shooting percentage for the series is down to 42.5 percent, his lowest since the first round against Oklahoma City when he had swollen knee problems.
  • Pau Gasol has been nothing more than a “spectator to the Kobe Bryant show.” According to The Associated Press, Gasol wouldn’t “get himself involved or the Lakers wouldn’t involve him” in Game 5.
  • Kevin Garnett is noncommittal about his immediate future, but he is definitely glad he decided to leave Minnesota and come to Boston, writes Bill Lee of the Providence Journal.
  • ESPN’s Daily Dime covers topics such as “the better team won Game 5,” Kobe Bryant needing some serious help on the court and Boston’s bench keeping the energy up every game.
  • And finally, the ratings for Game 5 are slowly trickling in and it appears that it was the most watched game of the series so far and the most watched event of the night again. The 2010 finals have been the highest watched finals since the 2004 matchup between the Lakers and the Pistons.
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