Sunday, June 14, 2009

NBA Finals 2009: Game 5 Afterthoughts

Congratulations L.A. Lakers on becoming the 2009 NBA Champions!

Kobe's quest for his first post-Shaq championship and Phil Jackson's mission to put a ring on each one of his fingers - both were fulfilled in the Lakers' 99-86 dismantling of the Magic. The Magic fought admirably, and kept it up right until the closing minutes of the game, despite the double-digit hole they were in. But their fight was not enough, and the Lakers showed the world the difference between a good team and a great team...
  • Let's start from the top. Kobe Bryant played brilliantly tonight: 30pts, 6 rebs, 5 assists, 4 blocks, and 10-23 from the floor. From getting teammates involved and playing tough-nosed defense, to leading vocally and getting buckets, Kobe did everything the superstar/leader of a team is supposed to do...
  • ...including creating some SportsCenter highlights. That blow-by drive past Pietrus for the dunk in the first half was nice. And that falling-sideways-show-right-shoot-left shot on Howard was insane.
  • The rest of the Lake show wasn't too shaby either. Ariza hit a couple of momentum swinging threes to help the Lakers gain the lead in the first half, while also hounding Turkoglu for most of the night. Odom came off the bench for 17 and 10, plus a pretty cool reverse layup on a fast break opportunity with Gasol. Gasol chipped in with 14pts, 15 rebs, and 4 blks. Fisher had 13 of his own. Lakers came out with an all-team attack on both ends of the floor...simply too much for the Magic to handle.
  • And now onto the Magic...the experience and pressure of the moment caught up, and overwhelmed them tonight. They came out fast, and even had the lead in the 2nd quarter. But as things started to shift in the Lakers' favor, they got frustrated and ended up choking.
  • Dwight Howard - where were you this whole game? 11pts, 10 rebs, and 3 blks might be okay for any average center in the league, but it is NOT okay for the superstar/next-gen Shaq, ESPECIALLY not in the biggest game of your career. You played the entire second half like you were expecting to lose... simply not the mentality for the NBA Finals.
  • Rashard Lewis is another guy who did not step up to the plate. I know he loves that 3pt shot, but when you've missed more 3pt shots than you've shot from inside the arc, then you know something is wrong.
  • Hedo Turkoglu's stat line looks thin, but not horrendously ugly (8pts, 3 assists, 4-8 FG). However, Ariza made this guy's night a living hell. Hedo had trouble getting to the rim much of the night. When he did manage to get past Trevor, he couldn't get the ball past Gasol and Bynum. Tonight his average-athleticism was exposed and exploited - something I'm sure teams will consider when making offers for him this offseason.
  • Can you imagine how much better a player Rafer Alston would be if he could finish better around the rim? Skip-to-my-Lou does a decent job of getting past his man, but can't seem to get the ball to roll into the basket... reminds me of myself.
  • I love the energy and quickness that Jameer Nelson brings to the floor, but am I the only one who's holding my breath every time this guy makes a pass? I'm scared Van Gundy is going to have a heart-attack on the sidelines after watching one of those risky things.
  • Courtney Lee and J.J. Redick are going to have great careers. Okay maybe not Redick, although he's still got a beautiful jump-shot... but this trip through the playoffs has given Lee some amazing experience. He's had the chance to play under the brightest of lights, while guarding the greatest of players. I'm looking forward to seeing him mature in the league.
To be honest, this ending was expected. Up until this year, the Magic haven't made it past the first round of the playoffs in over a decade. If you're an Orlando fan, there's no reason to hang your heads low; your team is young, and I'm sure they'll be a goliath next year.

As for Lakers' fans, enjoy the moment and prepare for next year. LA has all the same pieces to go for a repeat.

Me? I'm ready to start reading all the Kobe vs. Jordan articles that are about to come out now that he's won his ring without Shaq.

And from Shaq to Kobe via Twitter:
"Congratualtions kobe, u deserve it. You played great . Enjoy it my man enjoy it. And I know what yur sayin rt now 'Shaq how my ass taste ' "

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