Finally …

I joked that I wasn’t going to sit and watch Game 7 after investing a ridiculous number of hours watching the three-month marathon that is the NBA Playoffs. Rip Van Winkle awoke to see that nothing had changed. The never-ending investigation of USC athletics … ended. Ubaldo won 13 games … almost as many as the Orioles.

In the end, I invested another three hours and was misera …. umm, entertained, by the final game of the season. I nearly fell asleep in the free-throw shooting festival of whistles that was the fourth quarter. Seriously, that was just painful to watch, particularly as the Lakers clanked free throw after free throw (they would convert two-thirds of their free throws for the game).

It came down to loose balls and rebounds. Period. True to form, the victor in Game 7 was the team that won the rebounding war. The Lakers out-rebounded the Kendrick Perkins-less Celtics by a margin of 13 overall (15 more offensive rebounds to offset the pathetic shooting display). At the center of the action was the dynamic duo, MVP Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. They combined to shoot a miserable 12-for-40, but lived at the free throw line and scored 42 points to go along with the astounding total of 33 rebounds.

The fact that Ray Allen couldn’t buy a bucket, Rondo has yet to develop an outside shot (his late three-pointer, notwithstanding) and there was little movement and ability to get to the bucket in the fourth quarter when the worm turned. Again, I saw the shots of Kendrick Perkins all suited up on the sidelines and wondered how this final game would have changed had he been able to participate in this one. If nothing else, there would have been five (or six) more hard fouls to give and Rasheed Wallace’s minutes could have been metered out a little bit more. I have to say that Glen “Big Baby” Davis was tremendous in this one, providing quality minutes and, well, a big body down low to at least give the Celtics a rebounding option (nine in his 20 minutes and change).

In a contest replete with as many missed shots as celebrity sightings, we did at least get the appearance of Brian Scalabrine for 51 seconds. More than a few Michael Rapaport references were made in sports bars and homes across America, and I just started yelling about “beautiful girls making you dizzy … like you’ve been drinking Jack and Coke all morning.” Seriously, I’m a fan – go rent “Big Fan” with Patton Oswalt and Rapaport (gets you jonesing for football after this rough-and-tumble Game 7).

Bryant won the Bill Russell MVP Award, although I still think they should take it to a metal shop and give Gasol half.

I mentioned Bryant’s rebounding before. There was where he shone on Thursday. His outside shot was terrible, and we can credit some good perimeter defense from Ray Allen. Bryant missed a number of free throws as well, but got to work on the glass.

And, his supporting cast picked him up. Derek Fisher knocked down a big three-pointer. Ron Artest (wearing No. 37 in the reverse of Dennis Rodman’s No. 73 during his Lakers tenure) knocked down a huge three-point shot off of a Bryant pass and did his best Rodman “thank you very much” acknowledgment to the crowd. He also caught a pass while cutting across the lane and tossed up a shot, hitting the ensuing free throw, to aid that fourth-quarter barrage.

Artest had been invisible for much of this series, leading many to start bringing up the name of former Lakers stopper, Trevor Ariza, who was swapped out for Artest this offseason. His 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 steals helped carry the Lakers this evening and silenced the critics.

Some fans will start looking ahead to next week’s draft and the all-important July 1 beginning of free agency. I’m frankly shocked that I wasn’t offered a live look-in on LeBron James’ facial expressions while watching this Game 7. That might have been as entertaining as this slugfest. I’m counting down the six weeks until the start of NFL training camps.

Raise a glass to Kobe Bryant on winning his fifth title and to Phil Jackson on his 11th. The Artest experiment worked.

Now, how much does Phil want No. 12? Kobe was already talking up another run for a title.

Let’s put it on the shelf for awhile and enjoy the boys of summer.

PS – Can someone write the NBA equivalent of “One Shining Moment?”