Understanding Game 7 (of the 2010 NBA Finals)

Question: which team lead all teams in the 2010 NBA playoffs in free throw attempts?

Answer: the Boston Celtics.

In fact, they had 40 more free throw attempts than the Lakers through the playoffs.

Here are some other post game 7 observations.

  • In the regular season, the Lakers committed the 3rd fewest fouls in the NBA, while the Celtics were among the worst fouling teams in the nba… 22nd out of 30 teams to be specific.
  • Despite their poor shooting in game 7, the Lakers were still +2 on points in the paint.
  • Kobe Bryant did not come out shooting. Other Lakers had already hoisted 11 shots, 10 of them misses, before Kobe shot his first attempt. Kobe concluded the supporting cast wasn’t going to be effective, THEN started to try to get the Lakers back in, but couldn’t make it happen thanks to Celtic defense. However, that game would never be a scorer’s game. The winner of game 7 was going to be the team who did the best blue collar work: defense, rebounding and hustle. Kobe eventually realized that, hence the 15 rebounds.

“I wanted it so, so bad,” said Bryant. “The more I tried to push, the more it kept getting away from me. I’m just glad that my teammates really got us back in the game.”

Teammates indeed. Teammates who dug in and did the blue collar work of rebounding and defending.

  • Kobe Bryant shot just 25%, but Ray Allen shot 21%.
  • Andrew Bynum, Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic combined to shoot 9% (1 of 11).
  • Ray Allen shot 11-for-20 in Game 2, but for the rest of the series Allen shot 22-for-70 (31%), including 4 of 30 (13%) from 3-point range.
  • The Lakers were +20 in rebounds (46 to 66) in game 7.
  • 20.8% of the Lakers points came off of second chance points.
  • 8.8% of the Celtics points were second chance points.
  • The Celtics seemed to run out of gas with 6:13 left in the game. Derek Fisher nailed a 3 pointer, tying the score at 64, and sparking a 9-0 run. In the next few minutes the Celtics missed their next 4 shots, and were out rebounded 7 to 1. Were it not for that lapse, the Celtics might have prevailed.
  • After adhering to strict limits on minutes all season, Ray Allen (35.2 minutes per game in the regular season), Paul Pierce (34.0 minutes per game) and Rajon Rondo (36.6 minutes per game) played about 45 minutes each in game 7. In fact, compared to other games in the Finals, Doc Rivers didn’t play his bench much.
  • Both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, who typically log heavy minutes, especially in important games, were rested more than the Celtics’ stars, and had more gas in the tank in the fourth quarter as well.
  • Despite leading the vast majority of the game, the only quarter Boston won was the first quarter (23-14). The entire rest of the game, the Lakers outscored the Celtics each quarter, chipping away at Boston’s advantage.
  • The Lakers have really learned to value defense over the course of the Finals. The Celtics won game 3 in Los Angeles by scoring 103 points. Game 6 the Celtics scored only 67 points, and in game 7 only 79.
  • People are getting a bit carried away gushing praise on Ron Artest. He was the MVP of game 7 for sure, but had Artest played better in the previous games, it might not have come to a game 7.
  • Rasheed Wallace was 1 of 4 from the arc, but 4 of 5 when posting up left of the key. Obviously, he hurts his team by not playing inside where he belongs.

Here is game 7’s shot selection:

Game 7 Shot selection Los Angeles Lakers Boston Celtics
Dunks 0-0 (n/a) 1-1 (100%)
Layups 8-22 (36.4%) 11-19 (57.9%)
Jump shots 19-56 (33.9%) 17-52 (32.6%)

Look at the difference in shooting percentage inside (layups and dunks). Given that the Lakers are the taller team, the Celtics would have to be quite physical inside to force such a low percentage, hence the high number of fouls called.

This morning, Internet comment boards are flooded with the conspiracy theories of disappointed Celtics fans and other Lakers haters.

Uh… yeah.

Just as parents tend to see their kids as smarter or prettier or better than they are…

The vision of sports fans likewise tends to get a bit warped by our strong feelings. We very much tend to see what we are predisposed to see, and we miss seeing what we don’t want to believe.

The funny thing is, while everybody agrees with this theoretically, practically speaking, we feel like this it applies to everyone ELSE, because we ourselves have a special ability to see without the warping that emotions give our vision.

Not only was the officiating unbiased, it favored the Celtcis style of play.

I’m NOT saying the officiating favored the Celtics, I’m saying that because the officials allowed both sides to be physical, the more physical team benefited more. That benefit was evident all game long as the Celtics lead.

The trouble is, the bias in game 7 wasn’t in how the officials called the game, it was in how certain fans SAW the game.

During the regular season the Celtics had games where they ran out of gas and had trouble coming up with offense late in games. In game 7, this problem was made worse by Doc Rivers who didn’t trust his bench, and over played his key starters. Add to that, the intense desire which fueled the Lakers’ defense and rebounding, and THAT is what sparked the Lakers’ comeback in game 7, not some NBA officiating conspiracy.

Interestingly, the entire series, the team that rebounded the most always won the game. In 7 games there wasn’t one exception to that rule.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog article entitled, Champions Rebound, looking all the way back to 1999, the winner of the NBA Finals has ALWAYS been the team with the most rebounds.

At any rate, the Lakers fought hard enough to earn their win in game 7 of the NBA Finals, but they could not have prevailed had not the Celtics contributed to their own demise by not trusting each other and not rebounding.

  1. captaincaptain02-09-2011

    The lakers had 20 more free throws in game 7. They had 21 in the fourth quarter alone. The celtics had 17 the entire game. Kobe went 6-24 from the field and had only 2 less free throws than the whole celtics team. You can’t tell me, or anyone with half a brain, the game wasn’t rigged or that it “favored” the celtics. Use your effing head. Everyone that watched knows what happened, the Lakers weren’t going to win and the NBA stepped in so its superstar could bring in more money for them. I cant stomach to watch the NBA anymore and if I was a lakers fan I would be ashamed and embarrassed how they won. Absolutely disgusting.

  2. Tom7Tom702-10-2011

    So your take on the game is that there is a vast NBA wide conspiracy that includes not only the NBA head office, but every referee on the floor, and they are all conspiring to make sure superstar Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers win?

    And somehow you believe that, with the turn over in refs and NBA staff that happens each year, including the highly publicized layoffs last season, this conspiracy has still been kept secret from the public, and will be indefinitely so none of us would ever be aware of it?

    And the only way anyone can be aware of the conspiracy is to single out one game of 7, and ignore all the playoff games prior where the Celtics led the entire NBA in free throw attempts? Oh, by the way, the Celtics led the entire NBA in fouls committed all season long, and they were now matched against a bigger team, the Lakers, who were intent on pounding the ball inside against the smaller Celtics… and of course those facts are just coincidence, because the real cause of all the fouls is the NBA-wide conspiracy.

    This was game SEVEN of the NBA Finals, the very last game of the NBA season, so please enlighten us… given that there were not going to be any further games that season, therefore no more money to be made in ticket sales, television revenue, etc., just how was the NBA going to make more money with the Lakers winning the last game of the year than they would the Celtics?

    This is the kind of thinking you get from people who are fans of a team before they are fans of the game.

    Love the game, then love your team, and you’ll see both more clearly.

    Thank goodness Danny Ainge saw that game more clearly.

    Ainge saw REALITY and went out and got the Celtics more size… Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal, so they could remedy their weakness.

    By the way, except for Paul Pierce who I think is a drama queen, I’m a Celtics fan.

    I thought Rondo was the best point guard in the league last season, (and Derek Rose is making a great statement for himself this season), and I LOVE Ray Allen. He is one of the classiest guys to ever lace up sneakers, not to mention an age defying miracle.

    I like both teams, the Lakers and the Celtics, and hope they meet again in 2011 in the Finals. What a battle that would be for Phil Jackson’s last season!

  3. ismael mendozaismael mendoza04-06-2011

    People believe what they want to believe. I love how people say,”You can’t tell me . . .” Real rational people always demand proof. It’s absurd childishness that takes over regardless of what facts maybe present. And the fact is that it came down to the rebounding and the Celtics burning out at the wrong time, Lakers scrappy D, and Lakers learning the lessons of 2008 and attacking the paint to get the fouls.
    People point to Kobe shooting 6 0f 24, but the stat I really look at is his 15 boards. Combine that with Gasol’s 19 and 18 Double double and you get a better picture of why LA raised another banner and Boston didn’t.
    I tivoed that game and re-watched that second half over and over again and Boston clearly looked gassed. KG reverted to one handed rebound attempts, they Stopped going in side to Sheed who had a soft touch off the glass that was working well, they settled for outside shots that missed, and they made lazy fouls. A tell tale sign that a team is out of juice is when they start racking up cheap and lazy fouls.
    As for the rest of the conspiracy talk, it’s intellectual laziness that is convenient for people that don’t like nuance or anything that destroys their preconceived notions. Of course they don’t have to prove anything. They can simply say it and that’s suppose to win the argument. Well, it doesn’t. And no one
    can really come up with a valid reason why such a “conspiracy” was committed. And why did “they’ do it in 2010 in favor of the Lakers not for those same lakers in 2008? Or in 2004.

  4. BasketballogyBasketballogy04-06-2011


    What a great comment!

    I love what you wrote about the Lakers learning from their 2008 disappointment. I’m sure that’s true; especially with Pau. And if there was a conspiracy, why wasn’t there one in 2008 or 2004? GREAT points.

    And yes, Kobe’s rebounding shows just how badly he wants to win, and how he will do whatever a team needs to make a win happen.

    Finally, as a player myself I know exactly what you mean about racking up cheap fatigue fouls at games end. You start trying to play defense with your hands instead of your feet.

    Thanks for stopping in and leaving your comment; it was thoughtful and intelligent and very worth reading.

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