First Cup: Friday

  • Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times: "Throughout much of an hellacious, historic night at Staples Center on Thursday, the Lakers have rarely been so human. Yet in the end, awash in confetti and love and a giant ball of gold, they have rarely been so immortal. Struggling through one of their worst starts of the season, the Lakers finished with one of their greatest moments ever, climbing back from a 13-point deficit to defeat the Boston Celtics, 83-79, to win Game 7 of the NBA Finals and clinch their second consecutive championship. This is 16 franchise titles, perhaps none of them more difficult. This is five rings for Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher, absolutely none of them as hard. This is redemption for the Celtics' 2008 Finals beating, and can anything be so sweaty yet so sweet? 'We wanted it more,' said owner Jerry Buss, simply, perfectly."

  • Phil Collin of the Los Angeles Daily News: "In the locker room, Ron Artest had tears as he asked for someone to hand the championship trophy to his mother. 'I'm just so happy for Ron the way he played tonight, the way he played Game 6, very aggressive, very confident,' Gasol said.'Defensively I think he did another great job on Paul Pierce tonight, so he's a huge part of our success. I'm just so happy he was able to win his first championship and you could see it in his face. He's like a little kid right not that got his dream come true, like we all did.' The Lakers signed Artest to be their defensive stopper on the wing. They knew all about his volatility throughout the years and then suddenly, in Game 7, he was the calming influence. The argument could be made that Artest was left open consciously by the Celtics, who were determined to harass Kobe Bryant off his game and out of the triangle offense. Or maybe Artest's idiosyncracies rendered him immune to the pressure the rest of the Lakers couldn't overcome. It was like some mind meld had transferred the collective poise of his teammates into Artest somehow."

  • Arash Markazi of the ESPNLosAngeles.com: "Ron Artest was all over the court, finishing with 20 points, five rebounds andfive steals, and making key play after key play while changing the momentum of a game that was seemingly slipping away from the Lakers from the opening tip. History will remember Kobe Bryant as the Finals MVP, but there is no way he celebrates the honor and a fifth championship without the help of Artest, who scored 12 points in the first half (all in the second quarter) while the triumvirate of Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum went 7-for-31 for 16 points and the team shot a collective 25.5 percent from the field. It was Artest who kept the team within striking distance with his defense on Paul Pierce, who finished with 18 points, and his hustle on both ends of the floor. He was responsible for two of the game's signature moments and ultimately was the reason why the Lakers won their 16th championship."

  • Phil Miller of The Orange County Register: "Like we said, the Lakers would win ... and comfortably, too. What? That wasn't comfortable enough for you? How do you think it was for Kobe Bryant, who was less than a quarter away from having one of the poorest games of his life in one of the worst defeats of his life on one of the biggest nights of his life? The airballs? Was he nervous? The unforced turnovers? Was he panicking? The missed shot after shot after shot? Was he, dare we even suggest, choking? 'I just wanted it so, so bad,' Bryant said later, reeking of that pungent champagne smell that confirmed he somehow had, after all the failed attempts on this night, gotten it. 'On top of that, I was on 'E.' Man, I was really, really tired. And the more I tried to push, the more it kept getting away from me.' But teammates Derek Fisher and Ron Artest hit giant 3-pointers, Sasha Vujacic -- huh? -- made two big free throws and Pau Gasol did enough of everything else to allow Bryant to finally leave his mark in the most fundamental of ways: By knocking down free throws. Free throws? Yes, free throws. The game's best closer, the guy with so many buzzer-beating jumpers, the Laker with the greatest sense for the dramatic, put this one away in the fourth quarter by hitting 8 of 9 15-foot set shots. He might as well have been wearing Chuck Taylors and releasing the ball from between his legs. Black Mamba nothing. This was more 'White Shadow.' 'I was thankful that I was able to make one (darn) shot at the end of the game and make some free throws,' Bryant said. 'I had to do something. But it was a tough one.' So the Lakers survived the Celtics and their own sick shooting to claim Game 7 on Thursday, 83-79, and the franchise's 16th NBA championship."

  • T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times: "Phil Jackson will turn 65 in September, and Thursday he once again was talking about the 114-game grind the Lakers had this season, and the toll it takes on him. He earned a base salary of $12 million this season, and reportedly $2 million more in bonuses which he intends to donate to charity. Hard to argue this morning it's not money well-spent. It might be too rich for the Lakers, but doesn't he have to come back? He's the surest bet as there is in sports when it comes to winning a championship, and Dr. Jerry Buss is the best owner in all of sports, isn't it a no-brainer? Jackson's coached 19 years in the NBA, advanced to the Finals an astounding 13 times, winning 11 championship rings and yet most of the time he's probably taken for granted. Lakers' fans have yet to sound the alarm, probably more talk on radio about the return of Derek Fisher and Jordan Farmar when you would think they would've been screaming Holy Tomjanovich at the end of Game 7. Fortunately, Jeanie and I have something in common; we won't be moving to Montana any time soon, so no way do I see Phil abandoning his girl and buddy for the woods and a life of solitude and mosquitoes."

  • Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald: "Rasheed Wallace walked off under his own terms. In what may well have been his last NBA game, Sheed didn’t put on his civilian clothes after the Celtics' 83-79 Game 7 loss to the Lakers last night. He threw on a black, long-sleeved workout shirt over his green uniform, stuffed his things in a bag and walked out of the dressing room. Sheed wore his sunglasses at night as he walked down the hallway and headed toward the referees’ room. Back in the interview room, Doc Rivers was letting it be known that Wallace was thinking about retiring after 15 NBA seasons. That seemed to make more sense of Wallace’s desire to speak with refs Danny Crawford and Joe Crawford. He was stopped at the door, and when official Scott Foster came out for a different reason, Sheed shouted in that he just wanted to talk for a second. He said it was nothing about the game. Wallace was kept outside and he waited for several minutes. 'I’m trying to give him a compliment, and he thinks I’m trying to say something (bad),' Sheed said to no one in particular as he stood across the hall from the door. It appeared he was trying to offer an olive branch of sorts on his way out. He had no comment after he shrugged and walked toward the team bus. It had been a long night."

  • Bill Doyle of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette: “ ' It was everything you’d expect out of a Game 7,' Kevin Garnett said. 'We just came up short.' The Celtics came up especially short at the foul line, getting outscored, 25-15, in their 83-79 loss. 'It’s hard,' Garnett said. 'Everybody’s physically, fatigued, mentally fatigued.' 'This is probably one of the hardest feelings that I’ve felt in my lifetime,' Ray Allen said. Allen made only 1 of his 9 shots in the first three quarters before making 2 of 5 in the fourth quarter. He’ll be thinking about those misses for quite awhile."

  • Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com: "As he addressed the media at his postgame news conference, Doc Rivers fought back the emotions after coming up short of the ultimate prize and lamented the fact that things are unlikely to ever be the same after a season that was so fulfilling because of the obstacles this team had to overcome. ... That closeness was forged over the final months when, even as the Celtics struggled, they banded together with eyes toward Banner 18. Rivers always believed this team was championship material, even during those dark days in February and March when Boston lost to lowly New Jersey and got blown out by Memphis, both on the Garden floor. To call Boston's run to the brink of an 18th NBA title improbable wouldn't be fair. This is a team that hung a blank championship banner in its practice facility at the start of the season and displayed a picture of the Larry O'Brien Trophy inside its locker room with the phrase, 'Begin with the end in mind,' printed below it. The Celtics overcame so much adversity, but walked away without the prize that would have provided the storybook ending in Hollywood's backyard."

  • Scott Souza of the MetroWest Daily News: "As the Celtics walked off the court amid the piercing Lakers hoopla ringing in their ears, it was fair to wonder if this was the final stand of a team that won a championship in 2008 and nearly did it again on the two-year anniversary of a dynasty's resurrection. Allen is a free agent. Pierce could be. Celtics coach Doc Rivers will reevaluate his future in the next few weeks and may well decide this team got as close as it ever will be to another title. It will be an offseason of upheaval for a team that for most of Game 7 had its fans thinking summer might just start off with a parade this weekend."

  • Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald: "No one wanted to acknowledge it but the postseason, and the launching pad for postseason moves, began after last night’s 83-79 Lakers victory in Game 7 of the NBA Finals. That meant the possibility that the Celtics will have a new head coach next season. But Doc Rivers, who plans to confer with his family over the possibility of walking away with one season and $5 million left on his contract, wasn’t ready to look that far ahead. 'It’s tough; I can’t reflect on it right now,' he said. 'Probably in a week or so I’ll go hide somewhere for a while. But it was the craziest, most emotional group I’ve ever coached in my life. I told them that they made me reach places I never thought I needed to go -- had to go,' said Rivers. 'But through it all, we were the tightest, most emotional crazy group that I’ve ever been with in my life. So that’s what makes it tough. I don’t know,' he said. 'I’m going to wait. I’m going to go and watch my kids play AAU basketball. Just wait a little bit.' He can probably expect some calls asking for a return, if Rivers hasn’t been lobbied by his players already."