Friday, June 18, 2010


It was ironic, perhaps in a way it had to be in order for anyone to believe it. The Hollywood kids, raised in sun, the pomp, and the flash of show business' back yard, accused of being all style, but not much else, out-muscled and simply overtook the Beantown, street-toughened, injury-ridden Boston Celtics team and prevailed. Boasting a player known as the greatest closer in NBA history, Kobe Bryant played hero basketball most of Game 7, and came up short.

Instead the other Lakers rescued him and themselves, to get their 16th title, finally defeating the Boston Celtics in a Game 7. It was Lamar Odom, playing an inspired third quarter, driving to the hoop for a contested layup, ripping down offensive boards. Then in the fourth quarter, it was the old standby, Derek Fisher, knocking down a heart-crushing 3-pointer. It was Ron Artest again, hitting a crucial three-point shot from 26 feet away when Kobe Bryant couldn't find daylight.

But of all people, it was the oft-maligned Pau Gasol, the soft one, drawing fouls and sinking a semi-blocked shot that mightier men would have lost into the crowd when it mattered most. Gasol's move on Rashid Wallace to the hoop was inspired, garnering him an advantage in position as he had done all night with his seven foot frame. But help arrived in the form of Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, who swiped and connected with the ball as Pau leapt to the rim. But the "soft" Gasol, forced his arms forward as he descended, and perhaps a microsecond before his feet touched the ground, he willed the ball in. The Lakers were suddenly up by six with just 90 seconds remaining on the clock.

Bryant shot and shot, but could not shoot the Lakers into contention. His 6-of-24 night and 0-of-6 three point shooting would have made him a goat if not for the fact that he's a shooting wunderkind; the kind of player who can singlehandedly keep his team afloat, as he proved in Game 5.

There was no doubt the Lakers could win a game where they controlled the tempo. The question posed by everyone was could the Lakers win a game where the physical stylings of the Celtics was at play. And it was a stifling Lakers' defense, one that had been notably absent in several games, that made every Celtic shot a contested one, while the Celtics found themselves struggling to keep the Lakers off the free throw line.

In the end, it may have been the loss of Kendrick Perkins that altered destiny for the Lakers. One of the true big men at 6-10, 280, the large-bodied Perkins' absence cannot be overlooked, as his six rebounds per game average may have figured in a game where the Celtics were outrebounded 53-40. In the last Celtics win, Perkins added seven total rebounds, four on the offensive side of the floor.

Kobe Bryant may have been named the MVP of the series, but he wasn't the MVP when it mattered most. It was the supposedly soft Lakers team, one that finally put to rest any doubts about whether they could close out their franchise-long nemesis, the Boston Celtics.