Breaking down how the Lakers won
If the regular season is a marathon, and the preliminary rounds of the playoffs constitute a mini-marathon, then the Finals are a mad dash up a steep hill. And here are some of the reasons why the Lakers stand alone at the summit.
• Because of their comparatively younger legs, the Lakers simply had more endurance. Ron Artest’s muscular defense ultimately wore Paul Pierce down. Ray Allen is almost 35 years old, and having to expend so much energy playing bump-and-run defense against Kobe Bryant took the edge off his jump-shooting. At age 34, Kevin Garnett didn’t have much gas left in his tank as Game 7 raced to its conclusion. Indeed, a significant reason why L.A. shot so many free throws at the end of the deciding contest was that the weary Celtics were a half-step late on defense.
• In the crucial series-deciding endgame, the Lakers still had enough juice to step up the intensity of their show-and-recover defense against Boston’s high screen/rolls. Meanwhile, the Celtics were too tired to continue to shut down L.A.’s driving lanes.
• The Lakers used their considerable advantage in interior size and length to thoroughly dominate their offensive glass for most of the series, especially in Game 7 with Kendrick Perkins down and out.
• For sure, the Beantowners missed Perkins’ mass and activity in the paint. But the same can be said for what Andrew Bynum’s crippling injury cost the Lakers.
• In Pau Gasol and Kobe, the repeat champs had two creative and reliable point-makers as the focal points of their offense. Meanwhile, except for Game 2, R. Allen’s springers were erratic. As the series progressed, Pierce had more difficulty sustaining his offense with Artest Velcroed to his chest. By Game 7, Garnett’s offense was mostly reduced to catching lobs and shooting layups.
NOTE: Considering KG’s late-game layup that was blocked by Gasol, the uncontested 8-footer he missed early in the fourth quarter, as well as his late-game defensive lapses, if Garnett didn’t choke in Game 7 he certainly gagged.
• Artest unexpectedly stepped up his point production in Game 7 and, throughout the series, Derek Fisher continued to demonstrate that he’s a worthy successor to Robert “Big Shot” Horry.
• Rasheed Wallace is long past his 35th birthday but, even with his extended minutes, he played superbly in Game 7. Indeed, his inspired post-up scoring was Boston’s most dependable option on Thursday night. The surprise is that Doc Rivers stopped calling his number in the endgame. A fatal mistake.
• Even though Kobe’s shots hit more iron than net, he resorted to other aspects of his game — like rebounding and hitting key free throws — to put the Lakers over the top.
• Except for his trying to force the action early in Game 7, Kobe also made effective adjustments when the Celtics opted to two-time him. His willingness to trust his teammates in clutch situations was a distant echo of Michael Jordan passing to Steve Kerr for the jumper that closed out Utah in the 1997 finals.
• Also, despite the many long-range blanks Artest had previously fired, he had the guts to take — and make — the biggest 3-pointer of his career.
• The Lakers maximized their determination and poise, while minimizing their turnovers.
• Boston’s disgraceful belly-up performance in Game 6 was a telling indication that they lacked the necessary killer instinct. Indeed, Bill Russell was so disgusted that he left the arena at the conclusion of the third quarter. Meanwhile, L.A. wasn’t at all disheartened when the Celtics’ extraordinary defensive effort shut them down early in Game 7.
• The Lakers won because Ron-Ron’s psychiatrist is clearly one of the best in the known and unknown universe.
• If LeBron was toast in the last two games of the Cavs-Celtics series, Kobe is now the toast of the NBA. Kobe received the only MVP trophy that counts — the one personally handed to him amid a shower of confetti by Bill Russell.