America Deserves a Great NBA Finals, and We're Getting One.
With the series appropriately tied 2-2, I cannot be any happier than at this moment, seeing two titans like the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics vie for the Larry O'Brien trophy in June.
Yes, there's obvious excitement across the globe for a sport that doesn't require the use of hands but uses a smaller ball, but from Boston to L.A. and back, we're seeing all kinds of fireworks displayed in the Finals.
Then there's the Big Three in Boston, comprising Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen, who are rumored to be getting longer in the tooth and not as effective as in years past, due to their age (mid-30s).
Also, we have Pau Gasol, the most dominant big man in the league right now, who's trying to quell rumors that because he's from Europe (Spain), he's still soft. His equally tall partner Andrew Bynum has been more assertive (though still oft-injured) in the postseason than in previous seasons, making Kobe less and less likely to request the Lakers front office to trade the capable-yet-still-immature seven-footer.
On top of that, you have intangible players on the Lakers, just like how Zen Master Phil Jackson used to have his roster set up with the Chicago Bulls, where you're prone to hate the players but not hate the game. Filling these roles superbly now in L.A. are, of course, the deep-threat Derek Fisher, rangy Lamar Odom, back-up guard Jordan Farmar, and uber-athletic Shannon Brown.
Whenever Kobe or Pau or Derek need a breather, the aforementioned four have provided a great lift in the majority of the games played so far, particularly Games Two and Three.
It's the same thing on the other side, although the Celtics' starters and subs are much shorter than the lengthier, longer Lakers. But what Boston lacks in height, they definitely exceed in intensity and exuberance. These two factors played a definite role in keeping the series tied, what with Garnett and Pierce and Allen not consistently on their A games since they last won the title in 2008.
Super subs like the temperamental Rasheed Wallace, the ebullient Glen "Big Baby" Davis, the diminutive Nate Robinson, and the reticent Tony Allen may not always be relied upon to give the team a spark when Kobe was his phenomenal self last night.
However, Davis and Robinson, the former two-time slam dunk champ, were the catalysts in Thursday's win in Boston, because without their steady and crowd-pumping contributions, it looked quite fathomable that the Lakers would be staring down Faneuil Hall with a commanding 3-1 lead, looking to clinch their 16th title (and Phil's 11th as head coach) on Sunday.
In addition, you cannot overlook the marked improvement of Celtics pass-first, shoot-second point guard Rajon Rondo, who has increased his productivity and energy level in leading Boston to the NBA Finals with such regularity that many have suggested that he's the second coming of Bob Cousy, the original Boston floor general.
The talents and skills of the head coaches as well count for as much importance. For it was Doc Rivers that outsmarted Phil Jackson the last time the two met up in 2008.
Whereas Doc is more about defensive tenacity (thanks to assistant coach Tom Thibodeaux) and fast-break opportunities, Phil (through assistant coach Jim Clemons and others) has always been about methodical, one-on-one match-ups closely resembling a chess game. Because each coach's style is both different and highly effective, that's the reason why they possess 11 NBA championships combined.
So, again Kobe will continue to play at his utmost, broken right index finger and other ailments permitting. Pau will spot up for 18-foot jumpers and grab rebounds with reckless abandon, while the other Lakers chip in to help No. 24 get his fifth.
But if Garnett, Pierce, Allen, Rondo and the other Celtics have anything to do with it, they'll make it extremely hard for LA to reach that mountaintop.
What will make or break who takes the title and who doesn't will be Game Five. If LA wins in Boston on Sunday, then the Lakers will lift the trophy in LA in Game Six. But if Boston wins at TD Garden two days from now, then Boston, especially, Mr. California (Paul Pierce, who grew up in Inglewood) will be victorious and clinch the series in Game Seven.
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