Who says Kobe can't win without Shaq? On Sunday, Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers took home their fifteenth NBA title, their fourth this decade. It was also their first since 2002, and their first since the departure of Shaquille O'Neal.
This article will not include anything negative about Shaq and will not have any Kobe-Shaq comparisons. Instead it will focus on the Lakers and their victory over the Orlando Magic in the NBA Finals. It should also be noted that Derek Fisher also won his fourth NBA Championship, a man who is known more his reliable shooting in the clutch.
The Lakers won it in five games, each one with a story unlike the others.
Game One was an absolute blowout. The Lakers demolished the Magic at the Staples Center, winning 75-100. The Lakers started to pull away toward the end of the second quarter, and they never left.
Kobe had an impressive outing, putting up 40 points, 8 assists, and 8 rebounds. Pau Gasol contributed 16 points, while pulling down 8 rebounds and blocking a pair of shots. Lamar Odom added 11 points and 14 rebounds coming off the bench as well.
24 points from Mickael Pietrus and 15 boards out of Superman were not enough to propel the Magic to victory, or anything near it.
With about 6:30 left in the second quarter, L.A. started to open it up. From there, the onslaught would only continue. In the third quarter, Orlando was outscored 27-15, and the game was already decided going into the final 12 minutes of play.
Game Two was much closer. It took five extra minuets and a whole lot of luck for the Lakers to take a 2-0 lead, after winning 101-96 in OT.
The first half had very little scoring, ending with Los Angeles up 40-35. The third quarter was a little better, and it was the Magic who were up by two when the buzzer sounded.
The fourth quarter was dominated by Kobe Bryant and Lamar Odom for the Lakers. Meanwhile, it was a handful of players making the difference for Orlando.
One player who sure made a big difference was Courtney Lee. With ten seconds remaining and the score tied at 88, Lee received an alley-oop, but missed the shot. Another attempt by Lee was failed, and the game headed to overtime.
From there, Pau Gasol and the Lakers took over, and took the game, 101-96.
The key players were Gasol, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds, Kobe Bryant, with 29 points and 8 assists of L.A., while Rashard Lewis had 34 points, Hedo Turkoglu with 22 points, and Dwight Howard, who had 17 points and 16 boards for the Magic.
In Game Three, the Magic were able to shake off the heart-breaking loss from a couple nights before. They were able to squeak by the Lakers, taking the game 108-104.
The Magic played strong all the way through, and set two finals records: Best shooting percentage in a game- 62.5% and best shooting percentage in one half- 75%.
The Magic displayed impressive shooting as a team in front of their home crowd. The scoring goes as follows: Rashard Lewis- 21, Dwight Howard- 21, Rafer Alston- 20, Hedo Turkoglu- 18, and Mickael Pietrus- 18. Howard also added 14 boards.
Kobe had 31 points and 8 assists, but only 10 of his points came in the second half. Gasol had 23, and other players scored, but the Lakers were lacking in defense and aggressiveness on the glass. Because of this, the Magic were able to take Game Three.
In Game Four, purple and gold was back in business. This was another game that went to overtime, and another game that went to the Lakers, 99-91.
Orlando had a 12 point lead at the half and looked as if they were on their way to tying up the series. But a 30-14 L.A. run in the third quarter diminshed the hope that the Magic could finish the Lakers when they had them down.
Instead, it was Derek Fisher who threw the knock-out punch. He pushed the game into overtime when he hit a deep three with 4. seconds left in the fourth. In O.T., Fisher cam up big again, knocking down a three with 31.3 seconds to go in the game. The Lakers would feed off of his energy to outscore the Magic by eight in the extra session.
Besides Fisher, the Lakers who stepped up were Kobe, who had 32 points, 7 boards, and his usual 8 assists, Pau Gasol, with 16 points and 10 rebounds, and Trevor Ariza who finished with 16 points and 9 rebounds. Turk's 25 points and D-Howard's 16 points weren't enough for the Magic.
The series concluded in Amway Arena, where the Lakers played an impressive game. The Magic actually led for the majority of the first half. It was only until there was 5:09 left in the second quarter, when the Lakers took over. They never looked back, with their lead reaching 18 points a couple times in the fourth. They closed out the series with a 99-86 victory in Florida.
Series MVP Kobe Bryant finished with 30 points, 5 assists, and pulled down 6 boards. Other top-performers for Los Angeles were Gasol, who dominated with 15 points, 16 rebounds, and 4 blocks, Ariza, who had 15 points, and Odom scoring 17 and snagging 10 balls off the backboard.
For the Magic, Howard had a nice game with 11 points and 10 rebounds. But it was Lewis who led the team with his 18 points and and 10 rebounds. Also contributing were Turk, Courtney Lee, and Rafer Alston, who had 12 points a piece.
For Kobe Bryant and long-time accomplice Derek Fisher, it was the fourth title that they had won together. Meanwhile, guys like Gasol, Odom, Bynum, and Ariza got the championship that they had been seeking for the entirety of their careers.
This victory was especially significant for head coach Phil Jackson, who has now got a total of twelve NBA Championship rings. He won his first two as a player and the other ten as a coach. He has now surpassed the great Red Auerbach for the most NBA Titles as a coach, cementing his place in history.
Both the Lakers and the Magic are young, and will likely be in title contention for years to come. Right now, the Lakers should savor this one, before the pressure for a repeat begins to mount.
But remember this, Kobe CAN win without Shaq. Now you cannot say that one cannot win without the other, as they have both won the NBA crown on their own. But this is also a win for the Lakers as a whole, as there were many motives for the entire team and not just Kobe.
However you look at it, you have to admit, this is one dominant Laker team. Questions about Phil Jackson retiring and free agents opting out of L.A. are sure to come soon, but we should not forget what a fantastic season it was for the Los Angeles Lakers.