By Jahmal Corner
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Lakers rallied from a big early deficit to win their second successive NBA championship with a cliff-hanging 83-79 Game Seven victory over the Boston Celtics on Thursday.
The triumph gave the Lakers a 16th championship and a record 11th for coach Phil Jackson as they also became the first team to repeat as NBA champions since winning three in a row from 2000.
As the final horn sounded, Lakers' purple and gold confetti fell from the rafters and Los Angeles players charged the court to celebrate victory over their greatest rivals.
"This one is by far the sweetest because it's against them and because it's the hardest one by far," Kobe Bryant said after he was presented with the NBA Finals MVP award.
"Tonight I wanted it so bad ... and sometimes you want something so bad it slips away from you," added the Lakers guard, who made just six of 24 shots in Game Seven. "My guys picked me up."
Boston coach Doc Rivers said his players were devastated by the loss.
"There's a lot of crying in that locker room, don't think there is a dry eye," Rivers told reporters. "A lot of people feel awful. I think that's a good thing, it shows how much we care."
After dropping two of three games in Boston, the Lakers returned to Staples Center facing a series defeat for the first time this post-season.
The resilient Lakers dominated the Celtics in an 89-67 Game Six victory to set up the decisive seventh game.
A hungry Celtics team jumped out to a 23-14 lead by the end of the first quarter to stun a capacity crowd including Hollywood stars such as Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman and Leonardo DiCaprio.
But the visitors could not build on the momentum and were held scoreless for almost five minutes at the start of the second quarter as Los Angeles briefly grabbed the lead.
The Celtics regrouped to control the tempo of the game and reclaim a lead that they would not relinquish until late in the final quarter.
The Lakers, who trailed by as many as 13 points, picked up their game in the closing minutes and seized the lead at 65-64 on a pair of Bryant free throws.
Bryant finished with a game-high 23 points despite his shooting woes, while Ron Artest, playing in his first season with the Lakers, added 20 in a superb all-round performance.
"I never thought I would get a chance to be in this situation," said Artest, who knocked down a key three-pointer down the stretch to help hold off Boston. "I'm blessed."
Spanish forward Pau Gasol also chipped in with 19 points for the Lakers, nine of them coming in the fourth quarter.
"I can't say enough about the Spaniard," said Bryant, who also missed all six of his three-point attempts but contributed 15 rebounds. "He's a hell of a player."
Trailing by six with 60 seconds remaining, Boston's Ray Allen drained a three-pointer to cut the Lakers lead in half.
After Bryant sank a pair of free throws to put the Lakers up by five, Rajon Rondo followed with a clutch three to cut the lead to two with 16 seconds remaining.
However, the Lakers held on to deny the Celtics their first championship since beating Los Angeles in six games in 2008.
(Writing by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Alastair Himmer)