Both teams have shown signs of championship caliber play, while also faltering for stretches play. But if one player in the series has the last say on what is going to happen, that man is Kobe Bryant.
Bryant is the player everybody looks for to make a difference. You don’t achieve the moniker “greatest player alive” by standing by the wayside and letting everything come to you. This is the case with Bryant; he attacks and attacks until that final buzzer sounds and victory is clenched in his furious fists.
This wasn’t the case in Game 2. Many ill-conceived calls were made, especially on Bryant. And in the NBA, where styles of play change once foul trouble comes into play, it hampered the Lakers’ star and the rest of his team. Yes, the Lakers have many good players, but there is only one Kobe.
The Celtics are no slouches, having beaten the Lakers in 2008 with a very similar team.
Ray Allen shot the lights out in Game 2. He and Rajon Rondo picked up the slack of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, but this series will not end as it did in 2008 if not all those players do not contribute each and every game.
That’s the thing, though. The Celtics have a few players they can turn to in times of struggle, while the Lakers really only trust Kobe when it counts.
That’s no knock on Pau Gasol or Derek Fisher, but Bryant is among the greatest players who ever lived. He has hit dozens of game-winning shots in his career and many this year. He is the be-all, end-all of Los Angeles.
We all see what happens when Bryant is out of the game. The Lakers have no “go-to scorer,” somebody who wants the ball and can deliver when it matters. While Gasol is probably the player most fit for that role, it ends up being Ron Artest taking ill-advised shots from everywhere on the court.
Bryant’s career has taken many twists and turns. He won three titles as a youngster barely out of high school, had a much-publicized feud with Shaquille O’Neal which led to him taking the reigns of the Lakers, he has been bashed by coach Phil Jackson for selfish play and has been accused of lewd acts off the court.
Now, one year after putting the Lakers on his back on the way to a title, and two years after falling to the nemesis Celtics, it all rests on Bryant’s shoulders again.
Certain responsibilities come with being the best at something, and Kobe’s demeanor as of late suggests he will not let a repeat of 2008 take place.