Thursday, June 12, 2008

The View from the Tank: Game 4 of the Lakers-Celtics Finals

This was the greatest NBA Finals game I've ever seen. You've no doubt heard that the Celtics comeback from being down 24 points was the greatest in NBA Finals history. To me, it just came down to mature professionals winning out over immature, soft, overhyped punks.

The one play that distills this series to its essence? The smooth and composed Ray Allen, a paragon of basketball grace, waving off Kevin Garnett's screen as the clock ran down to just seconds left in the game, setting up a one-on-one situation with Sasha Vujacic, and then putting on a quick shake and blowing by a bewildered and foolish-looking Vujacic with a quick first step, smoothly and calmly finishing with a left-handed lay-up. Celtics up by 5. Vujacic returned to the bench to pout and throw a temper tantrum. Game over.
In a play that typified the Celtics' comeback, he was beaten one-on-one to the basket by aging Ray Allen.

The play occurred with 16 seconds remaining and the Celtics leading by three.

Allen simply ran past Vujacic and, untouched, laid the ball in the basket to clinch the victory.

While Vujacic sat on the bench during the ensuing timeout, a Lakers employee attempted to comfort him, but Vujacic angrily knocked the employee's hand off his shoulder.

Then he buried his head into a towel and looked -- like many Staples Center fans looked -- as if he wanted to cry.

Who's been the better coach in this series, Phil Jackson or Doc Rivers? Who decided to give serious minutes to Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, and Vladimir Radmanovic in this game down the stretch while not calling on Odom and Finals veteran Fisher? And who got tremendous production out of Posey and House, and managed Garnett and Pierce perfectly? Who brought his team back -- all the way back -- from 24 points down, keeping them motivated and positive and full of fire, to pull off the greatest comeback in Finals history?

Pau Gasol is soft. Vladimir Radmanovic is soft like Play-Doh. Luke Walton is useless. Sasha Vujacic is a streaky liability.

This series has done the service of revealing the deep idiocy of basketball's punditry. They've been exposed as the reflexive, herdlike cult-of-Jackson-triangle-adulators and squealing Kobe-worshippers that they are.

Speaking of the Chosen One, let's note that Kobe left the floor with time still on the clock. You know, because he's the MVP.
They gave the game away, but not before one of them walked away.

You know how Los Angeles fans are famously criticized for leaving games early.

Add Kobe Bryant to their list.

He walked off the court with three seconds remaining as the Lakers were bringing up the ball for a final shot.

It was a most egregious act for a most valuable player.

I'm not trying to gloat or be a jerk, really, but as I've said about these current, ersatz Lakers: don't believe the hype.

Also, they're a bunch of punks.

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