Cold Lakers Cold-Cock Cocky Celtics: L.A. Sucks… then sucks it up and makes arrogant Boston hit the bricks, as the Lakers Ring up their 2nd straight NBA Title, much sweeter than ’09 because it’s over their hated Rival (the 2nd hated Rival to get slapped this month… but this time there won’t be an Appeal)
Kobe Bryant picked the Ron day to give up smoking. Believe it or not, in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, it was a solid-as-a-brick Ron Artest who CARRIED an ice-cold Kobe Bryant to Kobe’s FIFTH NBA Championship. The Lakers gutted out an 83-79 victory, after trailing by 13 in the 3rd Quarter, to win the franchise’s 16th Title, and their first-ever Game 7 triumph over the Celtics in 5 tries — and Artest was Phil Jackson’s MVP of the game.
RONNING DOWN A DREAM: With eventual Series MVP Kobe struggling with his shot right from the start, going 1-7 in the 1st Quarter, it was Artest who picked up the slack. With the Lakers already trailing by 9 Points, Artest scored 12 of his 20 Points in the 2nd Period, keeping the frigid Lakers in the game. The Lakers shot only 26% from the floor in the 1st Half, but were down only 34-40 at the Intermission, because they were insatiable on the Glass (23 OFFENSIVE Boards for the game), and because their Defense was so intense. And as you might guess, it was Artest leading the Defensive charge. Artest smothered bigmouth trash-talker Paul “We’re not coming back to L.A.” Pierce all night, and disrupted the Boston flow repeatedly. Artest ended the night with a remarkable FIVE Steals. Artest’s energy and spirit were contagious, and inspired the Lakers — according to Kobe after the game.
Kobe, who ended up leading all scorers with 23, made only 6 of 24 shots, and even missed 4 Free Throws. At one point, he was 3-for-14 shooting, while Pau Gasol was 3-for-12 — and Gasol missed SIX Free Throws. But both of the Laker Stars made up for their poor shooting with huge clutch plays in crunchtime. Kobe did it mostly on the Boards, with FIFTEEN Caroms. But after the game, he said that there is no way the Lakers win this game without Gasol’s amazing contributions, because Kobe “couldn’t hit the ocean if he were standing on a boat.” Gasol finished with 19 Points and EIGHTEEN Rebounds, and he hit a little jumper with 90 seconds left that gave L.A. a daunting 6-point lead, right after he got an incredible Blocked Shot on the other end.
The Lakers had trimmed the Boston 13-point lead to 4 by the end of the 3rd, and had finally taken the lead halfway through the 4th. Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and Artest each hit one big shot down the stretch, with Artest’s being a huge 3 with a minute left that put the lead back up to 6. But Ray Allen quickly cut it in Half. Kobe then made 2 Free Throws, but then Rajon Rondo hit a 3, forcing the Lakers to make 2 more Free Throws. The Zenmaster inserted Sasha Vujacic, and the strategy worked: Even though he was coming in cold, the stellar FT Shooter SWISHED both Free Throws to put the Celtics on the brink of destruction. Rondo then missed a desperation 3, Gasol grabbed the board, and the Lakers are the REPEAT World Champions, with a hard-fought, 4-point, exhausting win.
Kobe blamed his lackluster performance on being dog-tired and TRYING TOO HARD. Phil Jackson said the same thing — That Kobe was just trying to do too much. But the Celtics — WISELY — decided to double- and triple-team the Hell out of him all night and make someone else beat them. It’s like pitching around Barry Bonds, or keying on Ladainian Tomlinson: It’s how I would Coach every time — Don’t let the big star beat you. Kobe forced several shots while three guys were converging on him, so it’s no wonder how he missed 18 shots. But he also missed open jumpers — and Free Throws — that he almost never misses in big games. And when he tried to drive, the Celtics were physical, but the fouls weren’t called as closely as they had been all Series, so Kobe just got more frustrated.
And Kobe wasn’t the only one to be stymied by the Celtics’ tenacious D. Fisher, at 4-for-6, was the ONLY Laker to shoot better than 50% from the field. And it’s a good thing that Fisher wasn’t ice cold, since he hit a big late 3, and his back-up Jordan Farmar went 0-for-3. However, Farmar played 13 minutes, and did a good job running the team, committing only 1 Turnover, against a devastating Defense. Unfortunately, because no one could sink a bucket, not one of Jordan’s great passes resulted in an Assist. Even his good Defensive play — a deflection of a pass – ended up as another Laker’s Steal. But Farmar WAS in command at the start of the 2nd Period, when the Lakers went on an 11-0 run to wipe out the 9-point deficit and regain the lead. Farmar was also in during the 4th, while the Lakers were in the process of once again regaining the lead. In fact, the Lakers were PLUS TEN Points while Jordan was in the game, and that is the second-best differential in the entire game, next to Lamar Odom’s +13!! Not bad for a Taft High Bruin, who now has TWO RINGS, with a long career ahead of him, and the experience of a Game 7 under his belt.
An ex-trojan also got some Game 7 experience on Thursday night, if you call 45 seconds “experience.” Because of the injury to Center Kendrick Perkins, Boston had to suit up Brian Scalabrine. And then the Celtics’ worst fears were realized: They had to actually insert him into the game, when their other Big Men got into foul trouble. He came in at the end of the 2nd and 3rd Quarters, and actually made a good Defensive stand against Lamar Odom in the 2nd, but then misjudged the clock and blew a last-second chance at a buzzer-beater in the 3rd — 2 Points that really could have made a difference for Boston in the end. And now, Scalabrine has to SHARE the blame and shame, unlike if he were in street clothes like he was for the first 6 games. And the pain for trojans just keeps on coming.
I don’t usually make predictions on this site, but I did make one before the Finals: Not only did I say that the Lakers would WIN IN SEVEN, but I also predicted TWO UPSETS, when I specified that each team would lose one Home game. I’m not saying that this was a far-fecthed scenario, but nonetheless, I DID NAIL IT.
Congratulations to UCLA’s Jordan Farmar and Kareem Abdul-Jabber, and the Repeat World Champion Los Angeles Lakers, who wanted it more than Boston, who fought harder on the Back Boards and on the Floor Boards, and who outhustled the Celtics to overcome a horrendous shooting night and successfully DEFEND their Title.
Counting UCLA Softball, that’s two Championships in John Wooden’s City, won by people who just expressed their love and respect for the Man and his teachings. It’s as if his Spirit is still making Championship Dreams come true.