The Boston Celtics captured a record 17th National Basketball Association championship by trouncing the Los Angeles Lakers 131-92 on Tuesday to seal the best-of-seven title series 4-2.
The Game 6 win clinched the first championship for the Celtics since the Larry Bird era 22 years ago. Hundreds of Celtics fans jammed the street outside Boston Garden to celebrate, some smashing storefront windows before dozens of police in riot gear dispersed the crowd.
Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce (C) shoots over Los Angeles Lakers' Ronny Turiaf, front, from France, and Kobe Bryant during the second quarter of Game 6 of the NBA basketball finals yesterday, in Boston. (Photo: Shanghai Daily)
Playing in the shadow of 16 championship banners hanging from the rafters, Boston took control of the game in the second quarter and stretched a four-point lead into a 58-35 advantage by the intermission.
The Lakers never got closer than 23 points after halftime.
"We challenged them before the game, for one time, let's play 48 minutes of defense, just all-out, denials, challenge shots," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
"Tonight we finally put it together on the perfect night to do it, offensively and defensively.
"It was just perfect."
Offseason acquisitions Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen each had 26 points to lead the Celtics, Allen hitting seven-of-nine from three-point range. Paul Pierce had 17 points for the Celtics and was named the MVP of the championship series.
"I'm not living under the shadows of the other greats now," said Pierce, who averaged 21.8 points over the six games. "I'm able to make my own history with my time here.
"If I was going to be one of the best Celtics to ever play, I had to put up a banner. And today we did that."
A delirious green and white-clad crowd at the Garden roared in unison, "Beat LA" and "Where's Kobe?" from the opening tip.
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant opened quickly but fizzled. The league MVP had 11 points after the opening quarter but only three free throws in the second when the Celtics took command.
He finished with 22 points but hit only seven of 22 shots and committed four turnovers in the rout.
"I'm upset more than anything, frustrated," said Bryant. "But I'm proud. I'm proud of the way we performed all year."
The Celtics, with Hall of Famers Bill Russell and John Havlicek looking on, foiled the Lakers' double-team on Pierce by finding the open man along the perimeter for the shot. The Celtics' defense did its part, shutting down the Lakers' vaunted offense for much of the game and forcing 19 turnovers. The Celtics committed only seven.
Boston Celtics Ray Allen (L2) passes the ball during Game 6 of the NBA Finals basketball championship against Los Angeles Laker in Boston，June 17, 2008.(Xinhua Photo)
Boston built an 89-60 lead by the start of the fourth quarter to kick off a party mood.
The Celtics, who celebrated their last title in 1986 when Bird was the MVP, outrebounded the Lakers at both ends of the floor.
"Everybody is disappointed that we didn't make a game out of this, give ourselves a chance," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson, who lost his bid for a 10th title. "They took us out of what we like to do."
At the end of the game, Garnett, who spent 12 seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves without contending for a title, hugged Russell, who won 11 championships during his 13-year career in Boston.
"I got my own, I got my own," he told Russell.
Boston's 39-point win eclipsed the NBA record for the biggest margin of victory in a title clincher; the Celtics beat the Lakers 129-96 in Game 5 of the 1965 NBA finals.
In the final minute, Pierce doused Rivers with Gatorade. Owner Wyc Grousbeck, who named his group Banner 17 to signal his ambition, put a cigar in his mouth to mimic the trademark of Red Auerbach, the patriarch who had a hand in the franchise's first 16 titles.
It's was Boston's first title since the passing of Auerbach, whose presence was the only thing missing on this night. Even Auerbach, who died in 2006, benefitted from the victory as it ensured he was not overtaken for championship victories by Jackson.
The Boston-Los Angeles rivalry remains tilted toward the Atlantic Ocean. The Celtics are 9-2 against the Lakers in the finals.
Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce, the finals MVP, celebrates with the trophy after Celtics won the NBA basketball championship with a 131-92 over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday, June 17, 2008, in Boston.(Xinhua Photo)
(Agencies via Shanghai Daily June 19, 2008)