2008 NBA Finals: One of the Most Memorable
The NBA Finals solidified a few things when all was said and done; here are a few.
Team ball + defense = championships.
The buzz going into the just-completed NBA Finals between the sport's two most storied franchises was at a level unseen before.
Kobe and KG were to take the reigns from Magic and Larry Legend. It was supposed to be another epic Boston-LA series.
But it wasn't.
In the end, the Celtics were simply a much better team and it couldn't have been exemplified better than in the Celtics' 39-point rout to clinch their 17th NBA title and first since 1986.
The Lakers were dominated and by the end of the series two old beliefs were reinforced — defense and team ball win championships.
The Celtics — with KG serving as the catalyst — were the league's best defensive team from day one. With KG and newly hired assistant coach and defensive guru Tom Thibodeau on the bench, the Celtics stressed defense from day one and every man on the roster caught on.
The Lakers, on the other hand, proved to be soft and horrid on the defensive end. The first image that comes to mind is Ray Allen blowing by Sasha Vujacic like he was an orange cone in a drill during practice to put in a lay-up and the dagger in Game four.
With that defense, the Celtics emphasized team basketball from day one. They knew it was going to take more than just the Big Three to win a title and the attitude was always everyone on the roster was as important as the other.
Looking at the bench could see that team camaraderie.
From the preseason, the bench was always on its feet, in the game, ready to do their part.
At first it was thought that that was just a phase the team was going through; sooner or later this team was going to be just like every other NBA team. But it didn't change.
The Celtics brought energy from the bench to the court, from KG to the 12th man.
Then there was the polar opposite that are the Los Angeles Lakers.
They simply couldn't consistently play team basketball. In Game four’s first half Kobe couldn't find his rhythm and looked to his teammates to take on the scoring.
It worked for a good while, but by the second half, the rest of the Purple and Gold went back to what they were used to — passing the ball to No. 24 and watching him try to score.
Maybe they were told to do that, maybe they were just afraid to anger the moody superstar, or maybe they really thought they could win a championship that way.
But it wasn't going to happen.
On the other side, the Celtics have the making of a team that can compete for world championships for the next few years. Their blend of stars and role players, veterans and youngsters will be tough to bring down in the woeful Eastern Conference.
There's only one Mike.
Just to clarify, Kobe Bryant is not on Michael Jordan's level. And he will never be.
He may resemble MJ's size, leaping ability, and jumper, but I don't remember bitching like someone cancelled a teenaged girl's cell phone bill.
I don't like Curt Schilling at all, but he simply reported the truth in his routinely controversial blog after Game two of the Finals.
Kobe "motivates" his teammates by bashing and bitching at them.
The media saw Kobe's story — from looking for a trade to "loving" his teammates — and ran with it. But as soon as the going got rough, Kobe went back to his old mentality: my teammates suck and I'm going to have to do everything.
Jordan never had the talent Bryant has at his disposal. Besides Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, your average role players surrounded Jordan, while Kobe has studs in Gasol and Odom to play with.
You can argue that Gasol and Odom are soft and chokes when needed most, but Kobe doesn't make his teammates better like Jordan did.
Pippen was a really good player, but MJ made him a great player. Rodman was a liability on the offensive end — an undersized power forward — but Jordan used his rebounding prowess and managed to keep the controversial Rodman at bay.
Phil Jackson deserves some credit but in the end it was Jordan who ran the squad.
Jackson is obviously now Kobe's coach but he can't work the magic he did with MJ and it's tough to believe he ever will.
Defensive woes for the Euros.
I'm not prejudice in any way, shape, or form, but after watching the aforementioned Vujacic and Vladimir Radmanovic "play" defense, another European basketball stereotype was reinforced. Most in the NBA cannot play a lick of defense?
I thought it was kind of funny how Vujacic and Radmanovic would apply some random pressure on the dribbler and either commit a foul or have the Celtic blow right by him.
Even Pau Gasol came out of the series with a major dent in his image on the defensive end. He can be a menace in the key with his tremendous wingspan but he's soft.
Plain and simple.
Looking around the league the stereotype cannot be rationally argued against. Dirk Nowitzki, Peja Stojakovic, and Hedo Turkoglu are names that come to mind.
Those three have great offensive games but sometimes you wonder who tried to teach them how to play defense. It's mind-boggling.
Doc out coaches Zen.
There has always been talk about whether Phil Jackson is just a product of great players and it's tough to argue after this series.
Doc Rivers outcoached Jackson from the tip. He took Rajon Rondo out when Jackson finally realized that Rondo rarely hits a shoot outside of 10, 12 feet and inserted Eddie House or Sam Cassell to spread the defense for Paul Pierce and KG's picking.
Rivers went with a smaller lineup for most of Game 4 after a horrible first quarter by inserting James Posey and taking Kendrick Perkins out. What ensued was just the biggest comeback in NBA Finals in 30-plus years.
On the contrary, Jackson zoned himself out.
It wasn't until Game 6 that he finally had Odom guarding Pierce instead of Radmonovic or Luke Walton — just a tad late.
Motivation is supposed to be his strength as a head coach but, for some reason or another, the Lakers stunk it up and got blown out by 39 points in the Boston's title-clinching Game 6.
Pretty ironic that Jackson that Doc out-zenned the Zen Master in his second attempt at breaking Celtic legend Red Auerbach's record number of titles as a coach.
America finally knows The Truth
The Big Three was put together with a couple trades to bring in two futures Hall of Famers. But one of them has been donning Celtic green for much longer.
Paul Pierce has been one of the league's most underrated players.
With mediocre talent he led the Celtics to the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals and put up All-Star numbers for the past decade.
Now he is a superstar.
KG and Ray Allen may have been the more publicized two of the Big Three but during the 2008 playoff America finally saw how good the Kansas product is.
Pierce isn't very athletic and his handle isn't out this world but somehow he puts the ball in the basket at a very high rate.
Now Pierce is the NBA Finals MVP and getting his due after carrying the sport's most storied franchise for so long.
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