(AFP) – Jun 18, 2008
BOSTON, Massachusetts (AFP) — An overwhelming Boston Celtics squad humiliated the Los Angeles Lakers 131-92 Tuesday, capturing their first National Basketball Association title since 1986 in record-shattering fashion.
In claiming the best-of-seven NBA Finals four games to two, the Celtics took a record 17th league crown by humbling the Lakers in the second-most lopsided blowout in NBA Finals history, the worst rout in any title-clinching game.
Kevin Garnett scored 26 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Ray Allen added 26 points while Rajon Rondo contributed 21 points and six steals and Paul Pierce added 17 points and 10 assists in one of the all-time devastating NBA efforts.
"Other than my kid being born, this has got to be the happiest day of my life. I don't plan on sleeping for a month," Garnett said.
"Ever have a bully pick on you in school? I knocked the bully out. That's what it feels like."
Garnett, Pierce and Allen completed a championship quest after years of NBA frustration. Pierce struggled for nine seasons in Boston. Garnett had 12 years of frustration in Minnesota while Allen spent 11 seasons without an NBA title.
But the Celtics obtained Allen and Garnett last July and together they turned their title dreams into reality by crushing the Lakers.
"This is all we talked about and it's finally here," Pierce said. "Kevin, Ray and myself, we sacrificed so much. We got all sorts of rewards in this league but we never got to the mountain top. Today it's a breath of fresh air.
"Nothing beats this."
Pierce was named the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, averaging 21.8 points and 6.3 assists in the series. One year after Boston finished with the NBA's second-worst record, the Celtics became champions.
"This is what makes those other things so sweet, knowing you were at rock bottom a year ago," Pierce said. "To climb all the way back to the top, this is a dream come true. I'm going to cherish this one forever. It means everything."
The Celtics surpassed their own mark for the biggest title-clinching blowout set in 1965 when they ripped the Lakers 129-96 to take the crown in five games.
The only NBA Finals game more one-sided came in 1998 when the Chicago Bulls ripped Utah 96-54. Boston led by as many as 43 points but relaxed in the final minutes.
"Everybody is disappointed that we didn't get a game out of this, give ourselves a chance," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said.
Allen matched an NBA Finals record with seven 3-point baskets in the game while the Celtics set an NBA Finals mark with 18 steals, one more than Golden State's old mark from 1975, and took advantage of 19 Laker turnovers.
"It has been a long time coming," Allen said. "The last time I won a championship was when I was a boy."
Celtics coach Doc Rivers became the first black coach to win an NBA title since K.C. Jones guided Boston to the 1986 crown.
"Offensively and defensively it was just perfect tonight," Rivers said.
The clincher came on what would have been Rivers' late father Grady's 77th birthday. The elder Rivers died after a brief illness last November.
"That was the first thing I thought of, what he would say," Rivers said. "I laughed, because I thought he would say, 'It's about time. What have you been waiting for?'"
The Lakers failed in their bid to claim their first NBA crown since 2002 and lost for the ninth time in 11 NBA Finals matchups against the Celtics.
Kobe Bryant led the Lakers with 22 points but the Celtics pulled ahead 58-35 at half-time and never let the Lakers recover.
"The goal is to win a championship. From that aspect we failed," Bryant said. "If we are going to learn anything from this series, it's that we can't win a championship by focusing on the offensive end."
The Celtics lost Allen 7:30 into the game when he was poked in the left eye by Lamar Odom.
Allen went to the locker room and did not return to the bench until midway into the second quarter, just in time to help spark a 26-6 run to end the first half.
"When Ray got back, it kind of fueled us," Pierce said. "Once he came back I think he really rejuvenated us."
James Posey hit two 3-pointers and Eddie House added five points to open the run with 11 consecutive Boston points. Garnett and Pierce took charge after that, carrying the load in a 15-2 run to finish the quarter.
"The last two minutes of the second quarter buried the team emotionally," Jackson said.
"We went into the locker room at half-time and tried to get our guys back on bearing and really came out in the third quarter and couldn't turn the momentum around."
Bryant had 11 points for the Lakers in the first 6:35 but did not hit another basket until 4:51 into the third quarter. By then it was all-but over.
"It's pretty bitter right now," Bryant said. "Second place just means you are the first loser."
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