Friday, June 13, 2008

Can't call it a comeback

Seriously, though, all Jay-Z references aside, Lakers-Celtics Game Four delivered with what will go down as the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history. Like I said in my post the other day, I knew game four was going to be an instant classic, but I had no idea it would such a gut wrenching and demoralizing classic for the Lake Show.

It was especially shocking after LA got off to such a fast start, with all its starters and role players getting involved. I was watching the game at Greg's place and the first thing I said at halftime was "The Lakers scored 58 points, lead by 18, and Kobe has seven of them. I just don't see a comeback coming."

Greg wisely pointed out to me, "Mark, don't you remember game 2 when the Lakers came back from in way less time." And of course I responded with the obligatory "Yeah, but c'mon, Kobe won't let that happen." Well guess what, he just did.

Credit for the Celts victory has to go to Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Both are legitimate Finals MVP candidates and have really shown themselves in this series. I thought Allen was washed up after watching him struggle with confidence issues against the Cavs and Pistons in the earlier rounds. He just seemed a step slower and it affected his shooting because that lost step was leaving him less room to get his shot off. But he was the go to guy down the stretch last night. I mean, that drive down the baseline to the reverse up and under layup with just the right amount of English on it was a thing of beauty.

And then Ray Ray had the critical drive to his right after draining almost all of the shot clock for one of those layups in crunch time that reminded me of a Wizards game (you know how the Wiz kids will just give up these absurdly easy baskets with the game on the line). On a sidenote, I realize Pau Gasol was way too late on the help side defense, but if you're Sasha Vujacic how in the name of Serbia do you allow Ray Allen to drive so easily to his right with less than a minute remaining in a Finals game. It's Ray Allen, who has absolutely no left hand to begin with and it's crunch time, where Allen isn't all that used to handling the ball. You have to know he's going to drive right when he's got you at the top of the key.

I mean, seriously, you can't talk about Ray Allen without some sort of Jesus Shuttlesworth flashback.

Sorry, but I just thought that defense by Vujacic was inexcusable. And then ABC showed him on the verge of tears on the sideline after the next commercial break. Every good thing I said about The Machine got thrown out the window, pissed on by a dog, shat on by a homeless man, and then run over by a garbage truck.

Oh and Kobe. Well, he can bitch about how tough the Celts defense has been, but I think it's painfully obvious Michael Jordan would never allow a 24-point comeback at home in a huge Game 4 of the Finals. It's funny how one series can change everyone's feelings about one player. After that Spurs series, where it seemed like the Lakers got over the hump, Kobe was being praised for his newly discovered leadership skills and how he could become the first player since MJ to win the MVP, NBA Finals and Olympic gold in the same calendar year.

But here's why Kobe will never be MJ. He's so damn polarizing. Don't get me wrong, I'm an unabashed Kobe fan. Some of the things he does on the court are truly amazing to watch, but I know just as many people who hate his selfish guts. Nobody hated MJ. There was just so much respect for what he was all about. I'll close with this stat, if you include the 2004 Finals, Kobe has now lost seven of the past nine NBA Finals games he's participated in. That's very un-top five player of all time, if you ask me.

Yeah, I don't know what happened to Kobe in this game either.

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