The NBA Closer is written by Matt McHale, who plans to spend the day celebrating the Boston's long-awaited 17th title. This almost makes up for Larry Bird transforming into a fat gremlin. When he's not doing green and white shots, he can be found trying not to toss his cookies at Basketbawful. Enjoy!
Complete and utter destruction. There's no other way to describe last night's 131-92 obliteration of the Los Angeles Lakers. The Boston Celtics didn't just earn their 17th banner, they wrapped it around the Lakers' collective neck and choked them with it. The 39-point bulge set an NBA Finals record for the largest margin in a deciding game. Boston pounded L.A. on the boards (48-29), bogarted the ball at every opportunity (a Finals record 18 steals) and put up a defensive wall the likes of which none of the Lakers — including regular season MVP Kobe Bryant — had ever seen.
"They were definitely the best defense I've seen the entire playoffs. I've seen some pretty stiff ones and this was right up there with them." The entire playoffs? How about his entire career? To my knowledge, no team has ever done such a good job of containing and/or flat-out stopping the Mamba over eight games — twice during the regular season and six times during the finals — than these Celtics. And I'm not talking about the skittish rookie who was tossing up airballs against the Jazz in 1997. I'm talking about Kobe at the height of his powers during his MVP season. Tom Thibodeaux, none of us are worthy.
The Celtic roster was filled with heroes. Paul Pierce, playing on his famously (or infamously) injured knee, finished with 17 points, 10 assists and 1 Finals MVP award. Kevin Garnett, who described his performance in Game 5 as "trash" and "garbage," had 26 points, 14 rebounds, 4 assists, and three steals. Ray Allen, who almost got his eye gouged out, hit seven three-pointers and scored 26 points. Rajon Rondo, who was left for dead by everybody outside of the Boston locker room, scored 21 points (on 20 shots) to go along with 7 rebounds, 8 assists and 6 steals. James Posey was 3-for-3 from beyond the arc. And the rest of the lineup did what they had to do.
Meanwhile, the Laker roster was filled with goats. Kobe, after opening the game with 11 points on 4-for-5 shooting, missed seven shots in a row and finished with 22 points (7-for-22), 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 4 turnovers. Lamar Odom had a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) but shot 2-for-8 and missed five free throws. Pau Gasol (11 points, 8 boards) played small and coughed up the ball five times. Vladimir Radmanovic took some awful threes and barely finished with more points (6) than fouls (5). And...well, you get the picture.
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The only downside of the amazing turnaround from 24 wins to an NBA title — at the expense of the hated Lakers no less — is the fact that Red Auerbach didn't live long enough to see it happen. But I have to assume that Red passed the Celtic matrix of leadership on to Danny Ainge, Optimus Prime-style. Because, let's face it, last summer Ainge put together a championship team faster than I can make a grilled cheese sandwich. (Damn my hook hands!)
And Paul Pierce, who (unlike some superstars) spent years and years playing (for the most part) selflessly for bad teams, has finally carved out his own spot in Celtic lore. Said the Truth: "It means so much more because these are the guys, the Havliceks, the Bill Russells, the Cousys. These guys started what's going on with those banners. They don't hang up any other banners but championship ones. And now I'm part of it."
And so is Kevin Garnett, who was bursting apart at the seams after the win, dropping to his knees and kissing the Celtic leprechaun before embracing his hero/father figure Bill Russell and saying: "I got my own! I got my own!"
Said Russell: "You sure did."