Boston lost this game and Los Angeles won it because Boston could not work its offense well in the third quarter and the champs ran their defense expertly, but can we all take a minute to appreciate what Kobe Bryant(notes) brought as the Lakers pulled away following halftime?
Quick strikes, around the basket and middle area. Bankers, post-ups, leaners, and runners. No one-on-five forays that flattened the offense and left only tough contested shots and obvious passing angles to be defended easily. Movement, smarts, touch, and awareness.
Kobe went at it, aggressively, as he always does. But he did it the right way, and look at the results! Even on the game's clinching play, which somewhat resembled what we saw out of Kobe against the Celtics in the fourth quarter a week and a half ago, the Celtics were so glued to their men, and the Laker spacing was so good because of work that Kobe and his teammates had put in earlier, that Ray Allen(notes) was left out on an island with Bryant. And nobody should be left on an island with Kobe Bryant. Not even Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers.
The same went, to a lesser extent, in the fourth quarter. Kobe was the killer. But it was that smart 12 minutes in the third (12 points on eight shots) that put the Lakers over the edge.
The defense brought it to the edge. Just around 101 points per 100 possessions for Boston, a woeful number for a team that good, and just 33 points from the team in the second half. They had that many in the first 13 and a half minutes of the first half, mind you, so it isn't as if Boston is incapable of scoring on this Laker team.
No, Los Angeles just closed off all the angles, took advantage of a weakened Boston bench, and went to work. And Pau Gasol(notes)? Twenty points, 10 rebounds, four assists, a block, zero turnovers, and nobody but the Celtics noticed.
Four regular season games in two years, seven Finals contests. Los Angeles takes the series, 6-5. But just barely. See you in June? One can hope.
Is there a psychological element that goes into being the third wheel on a night where two other games are being nationally televised? It's not strange to suggest that these players don't take the game outside their own as seriously and obsessively as we do, but they do pay attention. And when just the local viewers and League Passniks are watching, wouldn't that weigh on a team?
Moving forward, in this ridiculous bit of armchair analysis, you would think on first glance that it would be the former national TV-favorites that would feel the scorn the worst. A team like, I don't know, the Suns; who used to dominate and entertain all at once.
And blowing that theory to bits? The way, in this third wheel contest, it was the team (at least, in its current form) that hasn't sniffed many Turner broadcasts this yea. It was the Golden State Warriors, who I just assumed would come out and compete a little better in this loss.
This was a 20-point blowout by the second quarter, as the Phoenix spacing and good-enough D (feet that moved, outstretched arms) got the job done. Something was just different with the Warriors, too. I can't really place it, but I can say that there's no excuse for a team as gifted offensively as the Warriors are to only be putting up around 92 points per 100 possessions against the Suns. Against most teams, really, but especially against Phoenix. Even if Phoenix tries.
Fantastic game. Dallas clearly blew that nine point lead with a few minutes to go, but when Carmelo Anthony(notes) and Aaron Afflalo are raining in tough jumpers, and Dirk Nowitzki(notes) doesn't have his usual stroke from the free throw line late (either on jumpers, with Nene's great defense in his face, or on actual free throw attempts), what're you going to do?
What are you going to do, on both ends? As was constantly (to the point of, "OK, even the fair weather guys get it now, Kevin McHale/Harlan") mentioned throughout the broadcast, this was fantastic offense beating pretty good defense all night. Around 130 points per 100 possessions for both teams, and you rarely see that in a close game. Usually a team is only putting up over 125 or so when its night is littered with miscues that lead to easy dunks or lay-ins, throughout. This was just two teams full of great offensive performers, going at it regardless of the hands in their face.
And with Nowitzki only taking 10 shots, making five, and clearly looking to just sort of sop up minutes (six assists) until his right wrist heals. Carmelo Anthony dropped the 42 points you've no doubt heard about, and Aaron Afflalo continued his ascension (boy, would I love to see some clips from 2009 mewling over the Nuggets losing Dahntay Jones(notes)) with 24 points, 4-8 threes, and the game-winner in Shawn Marion's face.
Just a fun one that I'm looking forward to having on again this afternoon. With Peja Stojakovic(notes) acting as a place-holder for Dallas, until they can get Marion out there, and yet Brian Cardinal(notes) then plays Marion's minutes when he needs a blow after subbing for Peja, instead of Peja. And even if Cardinal only has three points and three boards in 16 minutes, the guy still puts together a +18 in just 16 minutes. You tell me.
Thirty points and nine assists and three steals and five boards out of nowhere from Chauncey Billups(notes). Great D (even if he only shot 2-8) from Nene. 20 and 11 for Tyson Chandler(notes). 25 points for Jason Terry(notes).
These two teams have to meet in the first round, with Carmelo Anthony around. And he can't play for the Mavs.