“He Makes Incredible Normal”

By: 05.30.10  •  49 Comments

Kobe Bryant (photo. Nike)

All the back-and-forth strategy, zone defenses, and random heroic role players didn’t seem to matter when it was all said and done. When the Lakers officially sent the Suns packing after yesterday’s Western Conference Finals Game 6 clincher, it really just boiled down to the fact that L.A. had Kobe Bryant and Phoenix didn’t … Kobe dropped 37 points (12-25 FG, 10-11 FT) in the road win, vanquishing one of his last remaining postseason haunts before moving on to tackle another in the Boston Celtics. Ron Artest was the star of the first quarter, putting up 12 points in the game’s first 12 minutes, and Kobe only made one shot in the second quarter as L.A. took a double-digit lead into halftime. But he took over in the second half, particularly during a key stretch in the fourth quarter after the Lakers almost blew a big lead … Phoenix was down 17 to start the fourth, but their bench sparked a rally. Goran Dragic, Leandro Barbosa, Jared Dudley, Channing Frye and Amar’e Stoudemire (27 pts, 13-15 FT) got the Suns to within a couple possessions with five minutes to go, but Kobe hit a couple of jumpers and got to the line for two free throws to keep L.A. ahead. Then with about 30 seconds left, L.A. was up five and Kobe had the rock 1-on-1 against Grant Hill. With Hill invading Kobe’s personal space like a registered sex offender, Kobe somehow got off a fadeaway right in front of Phoenix’s bench, after after the dagger fell through the net, Kobe smacked Alvin Gentry on the butt. That’s just cold … “Kobe’s so good,” Lamar Odom said afterward, “he makes incredible normal for us.” … At first it looked like Grant Hill was going to reach back into the 1998 machine and personally make sure his team wasn’t getting knocked off. In the game’s opening minutes Grant converted a four-point play, then shook Kobe along the baseline for a pretty floater. But those turned out to be his only made field goals of the game. Hill has a $3.3 million player-option on his contract for next season. If you’re in his shoes, do you stick with Phoenix for another run, or opt out and try to get on with another contender like Boston or L.A.? How about going back to Orlando? … Meanwhile, that’s 118 playoff games for Steve Nash (21 pts, 9 asts) with zero NBA Finals appearances; no player has racked up so much postseason experience without making it to the Finals. At 36 years old, how many good years do you think Nash has left? .. Artest (25 pts, 3 stls) played his best game of the playoffs. He took mostly good shots, his bad shots managed to go in, and was a beast on defense. One time Frye got a defensive rebound and before he could even make the outlet pass, Artest was on him like a rottweiler. Ron-Ron stripped Frye from behind and got himself a layup … The first time the Lakers and Suns play each other next season, should it be billed as the Western Conference Finals rematch, or Round 2 of Sasha Vujacic vs. Goran Dragic? Early in the fourth, Dragic dropped a step-back J on Vujacic, and as he started to get in his ear about it, Vujacic dropped Dragic with the most blatant dirty shot since, well, Kevin Garnett on Friday. At least KG didn’t try to hide his intent; Vujacic pretending like he just happened to put his arms up and accidentally elbow Dragic in the mouth was comical. Unless Nate Robinson and Shannon Brown suddenly decide to hate each other during the Finals, we might have just seen the last blood rivalry of the postseason … Did you see what happened at the end of the Angels/Mariners MLB game? Bottom of the 10th, it was tied up before Kendry Morales hit a walk-off grand slam for the Angels. But as Morales approached home plate while his teammates waiting to mob him, he landed funny and wrecked his ankle. It took a second for the rest of the team to realize something was wrong, and Morales eventually had to be carted off the field. Really, the only reason this wouldn’t be referred to as “pulling a Tony Allen” is because former NFL kicker Bill Gramatica did the same thing before Tony and looked like more of a doofus doing it … We’re out like Amar’e …

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