Somewhere, Red is smiling.
For the 17th time, the Boston Celtics are the Champions of the NBA. On the 17th of June, the pride of the NBA brought home yet another title to Beantown, and it was never even close. After Game 5, it was obvious that all the Celtics had to do to close out the series was what they had been doing all year, all playoffs and all series: total team defense and big numbers out of the Big 3. And that's what they did.
Kobe Bryant and the Lakers looked sharp early, taking a three-point lead during the opening period on the back of three three-point shots by number-24. Los Angeles looked like they had come to crash the party in Beantown; for a time. Then, as the quarter began to progress, so did Boston's confidence, their defensive tenacity and ultimately, their lead. Rajon Rondo started what would be a trend for the Celtics by making big plays on defense. He would contribute four-points, and more importantly, three-steals. LA was forced into six-turnovers in the opening 12-minutes of Game 5, 1/3 of what they had been averaging for the series. Despite poor shooting the Celtics did get 10-points out of Garnett, and still looked to be in control despite Pierce shooting one-of-six from the field, and Ray Allen leaving the game after being slashed across the eyes on a drive by Lamar Odom.
After one, it was 24-20 Celtics. And that's the closest it would be for the remainder of the game.
In the second quarter, the Celtics turned on the after burners. It started with three's by bench stars in James Posey and Eddie House. It continued with Ray Allen returning at the 6:05 mark. More defense came and so did more from Posey and House. During an 11-0 run in the middle of the second quarter, James Posey and Eddie House scored all of those points, pushing the lead up and up. While Kobe Bryant was held silent from the field, and Odom and Gasol did next to nothing much like the rest of the Lakers team, the Celtics continued to press the issue in all facets of the game which cullminated into an insurmountable halftime lead: 58-35.
The Lakers had been outhustled, outdefended, and pretty much outanything'd like so many times during the course of these Finals. The desparity in every angle of the game and any statistical category available was laughable:
- 11 first half turnovers for the Lakers
- 29% from the field for the Lakers
- Celtics Bench: 15-points
- Big 3: 35-points; Kevin Garnett: 17-points, one more than in all of Game 1.
- Zero offensive rebounds for the Lakers; nine for the Celtics
- Celtics doubled up the Lakers in rebounding
- Nine steals by the Celtics
What happened in the first half only continued and got much, much worse in the second. The game was lost at half time, it was labeled as KIA in the second. Like in the song "Hotel California", the champagne was put on ice, and the Celtics started to stab the beast with stealy knives -- only unlike the song and its story, they killed the beast.
The lead topped 31-points in the quarter, ending at 89-60.
In the fourth, it became absolutely ridiculous. The 1998 NBA Finals between the Utah Jazz and Chicago Bulls was mentioned, because the Celtics were closing in on a Finals record for margin of victory, which was 42 set by those Bulls and Michael Jordan. Although they didnt reach that record, they did reach many others. Rajon Rondo came one steal short of a Finals record. Ray Allen helped pour it on with three-pointer after three-pointer. That leading to a Finals record for three's in a Finals series: 22. That also leading to a tie for the record of three's in a Finals game: 7. The Celtics even threw in 18-steals for another Finals record. The final few minutes of the game becams a circus much like the one seen in "Batman Forever." Alley-oop jams and extra three's helped fuel the raucous crowd to a deafening noise level. Doc Rivers got a Gatorade shower by Paul Pierce after the starters were removed, allowing for them to celebrate, cry and cheer together. Kids were brought down to the floor, even Doc Rivers' son.
The 2008 NBA Finals came to a close at 131-92 tonight, giving the Boston Celtics and their fans their 17th NBA Championship. And it also gave Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers their first Championship -- and lets not forget, Pierce a Finals MVP Award.
Keys to the Game
Kobe Bryant: 22-points; 11-points after 1st Qtr.
LA: Only two other players in double-figures.
TO's: 19; 11 in first half.
Rebounding: 29; two offensive.
Defense: Gave up 131-points, 32 made free-throws, 13 three-pointers, 33-assists, forced only seven turnovers and were outrebounded by 19.
Big 3: 69-points; Kevin Garnett: 26; Paul Pierce: 17; Ray Allen: 26
Defense: Forced 19-turnovers, 18-steals, allowed 16-assists and 92-points.
Rebounding: 48, 14-offensive
Rajon Rondo: 21-points, eight-rebounds, seven-rebounds and six-steals.
The story of the series for the Los Angeles Lakers was defense: both their own and how they were dominated by it. They on average gave up 102-points per-game and allowed anyone from the Big 3, to Rajon Rondo, Leon Powe, Sam Cassell, P.J. Brown, James Posey, Eddie House to even Tony Allen and Glen Davis embarass them. And on the other side of things it was the same people doing it to them by keeping them down and out offensively. Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol never were able to establish themselves on a consistent basis, nor was the bench. And the biggest man of them all on their roster, Kobe Bryant wasnt able to either. Bryant only averaged 25-points per-game during the Finals, only breaking 30-points twice. Bryant always was a facilitator during this season and this series, but he never was able to figure out the Boston defense. He had his moments of brilliance, like first quarter three-point extravaganzas or close-out shots on Ray Allen in Game 3, but other times where he'd go quarters and half's without making a difference, and sometimes on either end of the floor. Boston dictated the Lakers in every way imaginable during the course of the series. They really dictated Kobe Bryant and his play as well. Looking ahead to next year and many years into the future, the Lakers will be an elite team and will compete for more titles, maybe winning some. They've got themselves set-up with a roster full of youth and All-Stars. Kobe and a deep supporting cast like he's accompanied with will continue to compete, there's no doubt about that. The only thing in question is the future tenure of Phil Jackson. And in my mind, outside of that, the only thing left to be dealt with is the stoppage of comparing Kobe to Jordan. To me, that's finished. Bryant is not Jordan. He can become someone completely different and maybe one day be more successful and statistically better. As far as today, he's not Jordan in any way. His legacy may not be finished, but as of right now, tonight, this very moment, Jordan is on another level.
For the Boston Celtics, congratulations. Congratulations to Doc Rivers, Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, the city of Boston, Danny Ainge, and most importantly, Paul Pierce. Nine-seasons in the NBA and with the Boston Celtics, years full of heartache both through first-round exits in the post season and disheartening seasons like last year. Even being called selfish and not being right with his coach, Rivers. Now, with the 2008 season in the books, he's a Champion, a Finals MVP and maybe, a Celtic great; a distinguishment that carries a retired number and a jersey in the rafters. After only winning 24-games in 2007, the Celtics turned things around to the tune of a 66-win season with the help of new faces in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, role guys in P.J. Brown, Sam Cassell, Glen Davis and James Posey, all coming together to bring home Banner number 17, on June 17th, 2008. Surely showing that 17 + 17 does equal 34, Paul Pierce: the captain and heart of the Boston Celtics. This team can now look forward to many years in Championship contention. And like the Lakers, possibly more titles won.