Tie a Yellow (and Purple) Ribbon: Magic phone it in from long distance and don’t connect, while Lakers dial up Rings, as Kobe and Ariza answer Call (of Greatness) in easy win that will have L.A. hanging up another banner after cutting off Orlando and NBA Finals in just 5 games
Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers have restored order to the NBA, and brought back the Championship trophy to L.A. where it belongs. And, WOULD YOU BELIEVE that it took a final score of 99-86 for the Lakers to gain CONTROL from the KAOS? Let’s just say that if any Orlando fans say “Missed it by THAT much,” they better be holding their hands really FAR apart.
The planets in the NBA Universe had started to be put back into alignment a while back, when the Lakers aligned with Kobe instead of Shaq during “The Feud.” Many fans and Kobe-Haters wanted to retain Shaq and lose Kobe, as they all parroted the famous line “Kobe will never win a Title without Shaq.”
If you were already a BeatSC.com reader back then, you know that when it comes to THAT Rivalry, this is Kobe Country, and that it was painful watching Shaq, Payton, and Miami win THEIR Title as the Lakers struggled. But this year, Shaq watched as Finals MVP Bryant dominated the Magic in a way that LeBron James couldn’t — By bringing out the best in his teammates. Ironically, THAT was the big complaint about Kobe — That unlike Magic and Jordan, he did not make the players around him better. But that’s exactly what he did in this series.
In Game 5, Kobe scored 30, with 6 Rebounds, 5 Assists, and most impressively, 4 Blocks. Those blocks were indicative of the emotional leadership (by example) that Kobe provided. And while Kobe is still at his peak, Shaq is deteriorating.
But the aging Shaq just MIGHT be facing Kobe head-to-head in NEXT year’s Finals… Because there are now preliminary talks for a trade that would send O’Neal to Cleveland, where he would team up with LeBron.
Cleveland is already at the top of the East, and although Shaq won’t really make them any better, they would still possibly get to the Finals, especially if Orlando’s spirit has been somewhat broken by this 4-1 “beating.” How hungry would they be for another crack at the Lakers? They sure didn’t look like they had any desire to play them last night.
Although Game 5 was no contest, the 4-1 Series win was hardly a “beating.” Two of the Lakers’ first three victories came in Overtime, after Orlando BLEW somewhat easy opportunities to win each. But in Game 5, the outside-shooting Magic went cold, the Lakers spurted, and Orlando could never recover.
In the second quarter, the Lakers went on a 16-0 run, turned a 9-point deficit into a 12-point lead, and took a 10-point lead into halftime. And ONCE AGAIN, it wasn’t Kobe that keyed the spurt, it was UCLA’s Trevor Ariza. Ariza scored 11 of his 15 Points in the 2nd, including two beautiful three’s. He also had a couple of Steals, and was lauded at halftime by Orlando’s Coach for his pressure Defense on Hedo Turkoglu keying the sudden 21-point turnaround. What seemed to key Ariza was a Double-Technical foul called against him and Turkoglu, for almost head-butting each other. Right after the call, Trevor took over the game, making everyone else look like buttheads, and head-butting Orlando right out of the lead (and out of the Season).
And Trevor wasn’t the only Bruin who contributed. Jordan Farmar closed out the 3rd period with a sweet banker, and for a while in the 4th quarter, both Ariza and Farmar were an the floor, meaning that 40% of the Lakers were Bruins. And make that 60% if you count Andrew Bynum, who didn’t go to UCLA or any other college, but is being mentored and trained by Bruin legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kareem had Bynum fired up and playing great in this close-out Road game, coming out early with more energy than anyone else in the paint.
That is not to take away from Pau Gasol and Bynum’s replacement Lamar Odom, who both delivered last night. And all three big men played tough Defense that held Superman Dwight Howard to just 11 Points. Derek Fisher and Luke Walton also continued their solid play between Kobe’s highlight-reel penetrations and frozen-rope three-pointers that seem to go through the hoop more cleanly than most players’ lay-ups.
The Lakers took their first lead of the game on an Ariza three in the 2nd, and kept a double-digit lead through the second half, because they held downtown-dependent Orlando to 8-for-27 shooting from behind the arc. Rafer Alston was 1-6 from Downtown, while Rashard Lewis was 3-12. That’s right: One Magician missed NINE three-pointers all by himself. But don’t start with the on-the-take conspiracy theories — The Lakers closed out on Orlando’s three-point shooters, including Lewis, all night, not giving them as many wide-open shots as in the Game 3 loss.
And as far as comspiracy theories go, the one about the NBA controlling the Refs was NOT supported last night. Even though they may want the Lakers to triumph, there is no way that they want the Finals to end in only 5 games. So the Refs SHOULD have been favoring the Home team, which is easier to do, but the Magic didn’t seem to get a lot of breaks. Neither did the Lakers, for that matter, but the Lakers didn’t need any this time.
One of the best aspects of this Championship is that it knocks obnoxious, cigar-chomping Red Auerbach out of the Record Books, because Phil Jackson’s 10 NBA Finals Championships now eclipse Red’s measley total of 9. Okay, so for seriously-fanatical Laker fan/Celtic-Haters, you can finally go ahead and call him “Dead Auerbach.”
If you’re curious, the Lakers have now won 15 NBA Titles, including 10 since moving to L.A., while Phil, who was at the helm for 4 of those, has won 10 of the last 19 Titles. Take that, Calvin Borel. Only Phil can change horses at will and still win. Sure, he has had Secretariat-caliber players, but you’ve still got to get them in the gate, and point them all in the right direction. Without a totally-concerted, team effort, the Lakers actually could have lost to the Magic.
Hopefully, Phil will stick around to make sure that the LeBron-Shaq combo can’t take the Crown away from Kobe & Pau. What drama THAT would be! Nike would have to make FOUR puppets.
If Phil DOES stick around, his first move should be to make certain that Trevor Ariza is in Purple and Gold for years to come. And who knows — Since having THREE essential Bruins in the Laker mix brought them a World Championship, maybe they will draft ANOTHER one this year.
I may not be that Smart … All I know is that right now, Kareem, Farmar, and Ariza should be on top of the World, to the Max… and…Loving it.
[Sorry about that, Shaq (Even though he tweeted that he was rooting for Kobe).]