After a Game 5 loss that crept the Los Angeles Lakers within one whiff of their second NBA Finals strikeout in three years, my mother made a statement that could possibly serve as a forewarning to Magic Johnson, Michael Wilbon and Jon Barry's job security in the NBA analyst arena.
"You know," she said, "the Celtics are the better team."
Mind you, this is coming from a person who knows as much about sports as the McCourt family knows about owning and operating the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise.
In any case, the notion that my mother is capable of making that sort of uncharacteristic yet clear-cut observation is like dissecting an owl pellet in fifth-grade science.
It doesn't take a so-called expert with superior know-how to understand the intricacies of a rather obvious assessment.
No matter how many ways you want to cut it, or how many statistics you want to reference, or how many questionable calls you believe the officials have made, the bottom line is this: L.A. may have the best player in this series, but the Celtics certainly have been the best team through the first five games.
In Games 1 through 4, the best player—one Kobe Bean Bryant—was un-Kobe like, shooting just 41 percent from the field despite averaging 28 points, and yet the series was knotted up at two games apiece. If nothing else, the overwhelming indication heading into Game 5 was that at least one of the next two, maybe three games would be struck by the Black Mamba's lightning.
In Game 5, Bryant answered the bell, finishing with a series-high 38 points on 13-of-27 shooting, including a stretch in which he scored 23 straight points for the Lakers. Still, the rest of the team couldn't provide the thunder to Kobe's lightning, which paved the way for Tuesday's "go hard or (literally) go home" Game 6 in Los Angeles.
And that's the beautiful thing about the game of basketball. More than any other sport, it is the ultimate team game, which almost always crowns its champions accordingly.
In football, three separate squads (offense, defense and special teams) comprise one team; in baseball, hitters don't pitch and pitchers don't hit (at least with the same opportunity and often times success); in soccer and hockey, one player (the goalkeeper) is better equipped than the others to prevent the opposition from scoring.
Basketball is the one sport that divides up every responsibility equally and effectively. Everyone plays offense and defense, and everyone is held to the same rules and regulations.
Unlike the dynamics of the other four sports, basketball players don't win championships—basketball teams do.
Twice since the 2004 season, the purple and gold have possessed an incredible amount of individual talent, only to see it waste away in the face of a team-first, me-second opponent. In that year, the Detroit Pistons upset a Lakers team that started four future Hall of Famers, and in 2008, Boston's united bunch prevailed over L.A.'s individual prowess.
Unless they can summon a synergistic mindset for Tuesday's Game 6, the Lakers will inevitably suffer another Finals-ending strikeout.
You can contact Josh Hoffman at JHoffMedia@gmail.com.
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