Celtics 97, Lakers 91: Instant Analysis
ST. ANDREW'S NET: BARRY OBALLIN'

The Worst Choke-Job in NBA Finals History Has Lakers Down 3-1

By 06.13.08
IMAGE DESCRIPTIONKobe Bryant (photo. Chris Sembrot)

Along with embarrassing themselves in front of the whole basketball-watching world, falling into a 3-1 series hole that’s likely insurmountable, and proving they simply don’t deserve to win a championship, the Lakers also allowed John Starks some long-awaited absolution. By blowing a 24-point lead at home and losing to the Celtics last night, L.A. took Starks off the hook for having the worst NBA Finals choke-job under his name … If you changed the channel at the end of the first quarter, no one would have blamed you. The Lakers charged out at the opening bell like Mike Tyson and immediately punched Boston in the mouth, and it looked like the C’s weren’t gonna be able to recover. After playing like crap for the first three games of the series, Lamar Odom looked like an All-Star in the first half of this one; he hit his first seven shots, rebounded with authority, was dunking on cats and going hard to the rack, which opened things up for his jumper. Even L.O.’s passes had noticeably more zip to them. We’ve said it before that when Odom is at the top of his game, the Lakers are dominant, and that’s what happened last night. For a half. Along with Vlad Radmanovic drilling threes in the first quarter and Pau Gasol beasting everyone in his path in the second quarter, the Lakers were crushing Boston by 18 at halftime while Kobe Bryant only had three points, all on free throws … By the time they went up by 24 early in the second quarter, the Lakers were totally feeling themselves: Jordan Farmar was firing pull-up J’s in transition, Odom took a right-handed three following a stoppage in play, the bench was dancing and mugging for the crowd, and Trevor Ariza was throwing up gang signs (um, we mean, signaling that he’d made a three-pointer) … We can’t say we were shocked that Boston mounted a comeback. When you get to the Finals you’re dealing with two teams that are too good to get waxed for 48 straight minutes, and if you get out to a big lead it takes the utmost focus to never let up. But as the lead shrunk from 18 to 10 to six to zero, we kept waiting for Kobe — or somebody — to eventually end the nonsense and put Boston to bed. Never happened. Kobe (17 pts, 10 asts) tried, but those same guys who were ballin’ in the first half (Gasol, Odom, etc.) went back into their turtle shells in the fourth quarter. On top of that, the offense went from a clinic on movement and passing to being totally stagnant … Paul Pierce (20 pts, 7 asts) was a steady force offensively for Boston, but how big were the performances of Ray Allen, James Posey and Eddie House? Ray (19 pts, 9 rebs) unleashed some hops and quicks we haven’t seen from him since He Got Game — the reverse layup and the dagger where he skated past Sasha Vujacic were just nasty. Posey (18 pts, 4 threes) looked like Robert Horry 2.0, and House (11 pts) was doing what Sam Cassell has been trying and failing to do all series, getting positive results out of unconscious gunning. All four of those guys hit some huge shots down the stretch … With Rajon Rondo (ankle) sitting out the second half we had a Tony Allen sighting, but still no love for Big Baby despite Kendrick Perkins leaving with a shoulder injury. Is there any doubt Tony is gonna be the most fool-acting guy on the Celtics should they end up with a championship parade? … How does Phil Jackson not call for constant traps and pressure on House? With Rondo out, Boston didn’t have a true point guard out there aside from Cassell (which is arguable), and L.A. could have snuffed out the threat if they’d forced some turnovers. The same thing happened in the Celtics/Pistons series, with Detroit never deciding to press until their backs were against the wall … Not to keep piling on Odom, but he had 15 points and 8 boards at halftime, then put up 4 points and 2 boards in the second half. He’s making Kevin Garnett look like Jimmy Chitwood in crunch-time by comparison … Can you imagine how Kobe acted in the locker room afterwards? We imagine it wasn’t pretty. Do you think it was one or two guys who got the brunt of an epic verbal explosion, or did he give some attention to everyone? … With that in mind, however, we can all agree that as long as Kobe has a job, Ronny Turiaf will have a job. See, Turiaf is smart — he sees how Kobe emulates Michael Jordan, and he knows MJ makes a habit of hiring his best friends whenever he has hiring power. Turiaf is working his way in there to be Kobe’s Charles Oakley. Don’t be shocked 12 years from now when Kobe is part-owner of the Sacramento Kings and he names Turiaf head coach … Jeff Van Gundy said at halftime that L.A.’s bigs pass the ball just as well as their perimeter guys. For a team like the Lakers, that’s a compliment. For the Knicks, it’s an insult … How does Michelle Tafoya interview Will Smith and not even acknowledge Jada sitting right next to him? (And later on, Mike Breen was doing the celebrity roll call and said only, “There’s Will Smith and his wife.”) These people do know Jada Pinkett was a famous actress before she married Will, right? … We’re out like Kobe’s fourth ring …


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