June 17th presents a unique day in the history of Celtics vs. Lakers rivalry. What is the greatest NBA rivalry, had its final episode on June 17th, 2010, (for now). We all know how it went on hiatus, with the Los Angeles Lakers winning their 16th NBA championship. However, that alone doesn’t make June 17th a special date in any way. Here’s what does.
Exactly two years prior the Lakers got their title, Boston became champions for the record-setting 17th time in franchise’s history. Who was on their way of getting there? Boys in purple and gold. So the two latest episodes of the greatest NBA rivalry ended on the same date, and with a different outcome.
The first one went in favor of the Celtics, as the first-year Big three started their run the best way possible. The series in and of itself wasn’t particularly close. It did go to six games, but it felt like the Celtics had total control of it.
Their dominance escalated in the final game of the series after they send the Lakers off with a 39 points blowout. However, it wasn’t an accurate representation of quality-disparity between two teams. The Lakers simply fell apart.
Paul Pierce had an additional cause for celebration, as he became the Finals MVP. The Truth led Boston’s balanced offensive efforts, averaging 21.8/4.5/6.3, with a standout 38 points performance in Game 5. The ring got him a spot on the limited list of players who were able to lead his team to the NBA championship. However, in his mind, it did even more, as Pierce went on a record of calling himself “the best player in the world” at the time.
Like Kobe needed any extra motivation after losing the Finals, now he had to prove to Pierce that he doesn’t deserve the self-proclaimed title of being the best player in the league. We wrote about the story that was shared by Sue Bird about Kobe cutting out Pierce’s photo during the 2008 Olympics to keep himself motivated. I bet Pierce’s statement only added fuel to the fire.
Kobe got his chance for revenge in 2010, and he took care of business. The hard-fought series went to Game 7 in LA. The game was far away from a beautiful offensive display. Both teams struggled shooting the ball, and what they did on the other side of the floor ended up being the decisive factor.
The win-or-go-home game finished 83-79 in favor of the Lakers, with most of the both teams’ stars shooting low percentage. Pierce went 5-for-15, Ray Allen made only 3 of his 14 field goal attempts. The only two Celtics stars who did their thing in terms of shooting the ball well were Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett. Rondo racked up a near triple-double, going 14/8/10, shooting .462 from the floor, and KG went 8-for-13, complementing 17 points of his own.
The Lakers also struggled. They had four guys scoring in double-digits, with only Derek Fisher shooting a good percentage. Gasol, World-Peace, and Bryant didn’t shoot over .389 from the field. Bryant, in particular, had an off shooting night. But there’s a reason he referred to that night as the best game of his career. Kobe delivered on the defensive side, collecting 15 rebounds in a process. He also hit two free-throws to put them up by 5 with 25 seconds left, after World-Peace hit a huge three-pointer the play before. The one who sealed the deal was Sasha Vujačić, hitting both shots from the charity stripe, making it a two-possession game with 11 seconds left on the clock.
Kobe got his revenge, eliminating Pierce from the discussion he inserted himself in. The Lakers came out victorious from their latest clash vs. their long time rival after they were embarrassed in the TD Garden, precisely two years before, on June 17th.