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NBA Finals Game Six: Celtics Close Out Lakers With Near-Perfect Performance

Erick BlascoSenior Writer IJune 18, 2008

As evidenced by the 131-92 final score, Boston’s championship clincher was a complete and thorough victory. It’s what happens when everybody on a team performs exactly how they’re supposed to.

After being too timid to perform well in LA, Rajon Rondo played with a world of confidence in Game Six. Sure, he missed no less than seven layups, but Rondo constantly had his eyes on the rim and looked to drive and finish much more than at any other time in this year’s playoffs.

With Rondo suddenly a threat and the Celtics no longer playing four-on-five, their offense ran so much smoother. No to mention Rondo made snappy decisions (six assists, no turnovers), was a board behemoth (seven rebounds), and even knocked down a pair of jumpers.

Also, Doc Rivers gave the Lakers a taste of their own medicine by using Rondo's quick hands and anticipatory skills to pickpocket passes, poke away dribbles, and cause mayhem when the Lakers had the ball. Rondo’s six steals don’t do justice to the innumerable deflections he had in the game.

Kevin Garnett had his absolute finest game as a pro (10-18 FG, 6-7 FT, 14 REB, 4 AST, 3 STL, 1 BLK, 0 TO, 26 PTS). Aggressive and tough, if Garnett had played with the same kind of ferocity in past playoffs, he wouldn’t have been a perennial first-round exit in Minnesota.

Paul Pierce noticeably had no explosion left in his legs. He was more content to suck in the Lakers defense and dish to open teammates for ten huge assists. His 17 points were almost accidental.

Ray Allen sniped the Lakers into submission (7-9 3FG), while continuing to harass Kobe Bryant.

Kendrick Perkins didn’t play much, but was big, strong, and impassable under the basket.

James Posey (4-4 FG, 3-3 3FG, 3 REB, 3 STL, 1 BLK, 11 PTS) played with the same physicality and heart vital to Miami’s 2006 NBA championship.

Eddie House’s lone three pointer (1-5 3FG) helped open the floodgates in the second quarter, and he was comfortable handling the ball (five assists, zero turnovers).

P.J. Brown, Leon Powe, and Glen Davis defended, rebounded, boxed out, and pulverized the softer Lakers with their physicality.

Doc Rivers made all the right moves, especially featuring Rajon Rondo early to get the youngster to play with energy and confidence.

Meanwhile, the majority of the Lakers played like mental and physical cream puffs.

Kobe Bryant was little more than a glorified jump shooter. With Boston’s defense intent on cutting off his penetration angles while contesting his jumpers, Kobe took the easy way out by settling for jumper after jumper. After hitting four of his first five shots for 11 points, Kobe went 3-17 afterwards for 11 points.

He may have been the regular season MVP, but Paul Pierce was easily the best player in the series by a wide margin.

Pau Gasol (4-7 FG, 8 REB, 2 AST, 5 TO, 11 PTS) was pick pocketed by Rondo countless times, made weak passes, and was beaten and bloodied by Garnett, Perkins, and Co. Just another typical soft-serve performance for Mr. Softee.

With Kendrick Perkins back in the starting lineup, Lamar Odom didn’t have the same opportunities for layups in Game Six that he had in Game Five. With the sudden reemergence of a mountain in his path, Odom went back to being the passive presence he was in games one through four. His final stats look nice (14 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists), but nearly all came in garbage time.

Derek Fisher was smart, but contributed little—7 PTS, 4 AST.

Vladimir Radmanovic was lost in space.

Sasha Vujacic took the easy way out on every screen and Ray Allen made him pay for it.

Trevor Ariza, Luke Walton, and Ronnie Turiaf were useless.

Like his teammates, Jordan Farmar gave up on defense.

Still, being such a young team, this trip to the Finals should do wonders for the Lakers, especially the experience of playing such smart and physical opponents as the Jazz, Spurs, and Celtics. Plus, knocking off the Jazz and Spurs in relative ease are proud accomplishments and a testament to the Lakers athleticism and resourcefulness.

Getting Andrew Bynum back healthy will be a boon to the Lakers next year as well.

But the Boston Celtics finished up a magnificent 2007-2008 season the same way they kicked it off—by playing with a complete commitment to defense, by having a hive-like trust in their roles and their teammates, by performing their roles with aplomb, by being ultra-smart, ultra-efficient, and ultra-physical, and by always, always, going the extra mile.

A fitting close-out performance for a worthy champion.

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