Amidst the annoying din of the Vuvuzelas and the frenetic start to the FIFA World Cup, it’s easy to forget that there’s still a ferocious battle going on across America, from its East coast to its West.
I belong to that alienated group of people who felt that the 2010 NBA Finals would lack excitement, drama, and passion as well as all the other intangibles that a championship matchup usually brings to the table.
With the series tied at two each, I somehow thought that it would come to an anti-climatic end when the Lakers snatched game five at the Garden. Could I ever have been more wrong!
Under the premise that basketball is a team game and that the best team will win—hand this one over to the Celtics. They don’t have the best player (that luxury rests with the Lakers) in the series yet they will head to Los Angeles with two chances to clinch an 18th title.
Kobe Bryant tried to take over the offense, erupting for 38 points through a dazzling display of clinical mid-range jump shooting evidenced by the fact that not one of his points came through a dunk or a layup!
Defended brilliantly by the Celtics, Bryant proved why he might be arguably the greatest shot maker of all time as he hit net on one shot after the other, making incredibly difficult twisting fade-aways that caused Celtics coach Doc Rivers to exclaim, “Those are tough shots!” to his assistants.
Yet, as a result of a near-paralleled shooting display by Celtics captain Paul Pierce (who had been under criticism of late for having a louder bark than bite), the Celtics remained in control and eventually closed the game out.
The icing on a looming championship cake fittingly came with 35 seconds left, when Pierce (in his best Brady-Moss impersonation), made a stunning bullet-like assist to Rajon Rondo for a layup as he lost his balance and fell out of bounds.
When Bryant erupts offensively to such an extent, one would assume that the Lakers would have closed the game out or at least come close to doing so.
The problem was that the Celtics put forth their own singular philosophy which helped them dismantle the Lakers two years ago—if they made Bryant take those incredibly difficult shots and collapse the defense onto him while keeping the lane clogged, he simply couldn’t beat them by himself.
The non-existence of the rest of the Lakers (including Gasol), ensured that Bryant didn’t have a chance. No matter how difficult the degree of his shot was, it was eventually only worth two points and not five.
Consequently, when the defense was unable to get stops at the right moments, it spelled the end of the game and this is why the Lakers now find themselves in a steamy cauldron of home court pressure that is the Staples Center.
Kobe Bryant will not go away quietly, but focusing the offense on him cannot be a safe and sensible strategy for the Lakers. I continue to accept that the Lakers are the most talented team in the NBA and if the rest of them simply do their bit, we could see a Game Seven battle going to the Lakers.
For now, it’s Boston with the upper-hand.
East versus West, Green versus Gold, Pierce versus Bryant, Dynasty versus Dynasty.
This series finally seems to have it all!