First: I apologize in advance for the somber nature of this post. It's just how I'm feeling at the moment. I promise to bring the funny back starting next week.
Second: Congratulations to the Los Angeles Lakers for winning the 2010 NBA Championship. In the final analysis, of all the teams in the Association, the Lakers had the best combination of coaching, star power, inside scoring, rebounding, defense, role play and intangibles. L.A. was the best team in the league and now they have a shiny trophy and fancy rings (on order) to prove it.
For me, personally, this was the worst possible outcome.
I haven't seen what I'm assuming is a crappy remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street...but I feel like I'm living it. Here's the thing: I hate the Lakers. I've always hated the Lakers. I will always hate the Lakers. Look, it's just how I was raised. My mom hated the Lakers and she passed that glorious hatred onto me, along with bad eyesight and a knack for retaining water. Thanks, mom.
Anyway, I love the Celtics about as much as I hate the Lakers. Again, this came from my mom, who spent the early 80s forcing me to follow the Celts until I eventually became I diehard fan. To watch Larry Bird during the 80s -- and I mean really watch him -- was to love him. And Kevin McHale. And Robert Parish. And D.J. I didn't love Danny Ainge. Sorry, Danny. You were a dick. But I respected him. So on and so forth.
I remained a Celtics fan during the nightmare period between Bird's retirement and the moves that brought Ray Allen and KG to Boston. God, I remember Lakers fans -- not all, but some -- pissing and moaning during the three years following Shaq's departure, and how they called for Mitch Kupchak's head during the summer of 2007 because he didn't trade Andrew Bynum for Jason Kidd or whatever else was being offered around. Well, trust me, those three years was nothing compared to the 15 years of horror Celtics fans suffered through. I have three words for you: Reggie Lewis died. I have four words for you: head coach M.L. Carr. I have five words for you: The Dominque Wilkins' retirement tour.
I could go on, but you get the point.
When this season started, Evil Ted said: "Could there be any better finish than another Celtics-Lakers Finals?" I answered with an emphatic "No." I conceded that there could be nothing better than Boston beating L.A. in the Finals...but nothing worse than the Celtics losing to the Lakers with everything on the line.
And here we are.
I will forever be amazed that the Lakers won a title despite shooting 32 percent from the field. According to ESPN Stats & Information, they had the worst NBA Finals shooting percentage for a winning team in the shot-clock era. That astounds me. I'm also astounded at their 23 offensive rebounds. L.A.'s work on the boards is the only thing that kept the Celtics from blowing them out of this game. Especially considering the fact that Kobe Bryant (6-for-24) and Pau Gasol (6-for-16) seemed to have a case of the yips. Hell, those guys even combined to miss 10 free throws between them (six bricks by Pau, four by Kobe).
Then again, Kobe and Gasol also combined for 33 rebounds. For perspective, the Celtics had 40 rebounds as a team. Mamba and the Marshmallow also outrebounded Boston 13-8 on the offensive glass. I bet Kendrick Perkins died a little inside every time the Lakers grabbed an offensive board.
Speaking of dying inside, Ray Allen said: "We were scratching and clawing, trying to do everything we could to try to pull this out. We had an opportunity to win, but it just didn't go our way down the stretch. I don't think we ran out of steam. Lady Luck just didn't bounce in our corner. ... There were a lot of tears, a lot of tears."
Doc Rivers added: "There's a lot of crying in that locker room. A lot of people who care. I don't think there was a dry eye. A lot of hugs, a lot of people feeling awful. That's a good thing. Showed a lot of people cared."
It hurts. And you know what hurts the most? This was it. The last hurrah. The Celtics won't be back in the Finals next year. What could possibly happen to make this team any better next season than it was this season? I just can't see it. Their oldest player, Ray Allen, disappeared in the final five games of a seven game series. Ray might not re-sign with the Celtics, and if he does, he's only going to be a year older. So are KG's knees, Rasheed Wallace's back and flabby ass, Paul Pierce's everything, etc.
In other words, it's over. They were five points from a title...but it's over.
Meanwhile, L.A. is probably going to be the favorite to win it again next season. The Celtics (too old) and Spurs (ditto) are done. LeBron is either going to leave the Cavaliers (not good enough) or go to some other team that's not ready to compete for a title (sorry, the Super Team isn't happening). The Magic rely on Vince Carter, so that ain't happening. And I can't see any other teams being ready to challenge the Lakers by next season.
So...here are the things from this game, and this series, that will haunt me:
Ray Allen's shooting: The league's "best pure shooter" had another turrible night, going 3-for-14 from the field and 2-for-7 from downtown. When I look at how close this series was -- and Games 3 and 7 in particular -- all I can think is that Allen's post-Game 2 shooting slump cost the Celtics the title. Part of my disappointment is, and it pains me to say this, that unlike (gag) Kobe, Allen wasn't pounding the glass or really creating for his teammates. When Ray-Ray can't hit shots, he becomes next to useless. Okay, he did a pretty good job defending Kobe. Maybe that's why he didn't have any legs. Which reminds me...
Rajon Rondo's jumper: All season long, doomsayers kept predicting that Rondo's jumper -- which numbers indicate is actually worse than it was in 2008 (from 16-23 feet anyway) -- would end up haunting the Celtics. Well, it did in this series. Kobe basically got the series off in terms of defense. At least when he was matched up on Rondo. He got to wander around, ball-hawking for steals and disrupting Boston's offense. Sometimes Rondo was able to take advantage of the 10+ feet of cushion Mamba was giving him. A lot of other times, he wasn't.
Look, Rondo, you've been in the league a while now. You should be able to can 15-footers by now. With regularity. I've been lucky enough to watch Derrick Rose practice his jumper before games. The dude shoots for hours. And his shot improved dramatically between his rookie and sophomore seasons. Rose is proof it can be done. What the hell is Rajon doing over the summer?
Kevin Garnett's legs: KG actually had a pretty good offensive series. I haven't checked the final numbers yet, but he averaged around 15-16 points while shooting about 50 percent from the field. Not bad considering his minutes (only around 30 a game), his number of shot attempts and the defense he was facing. But Garnett couldn't rebound. Kobe had more offensive rebounds (4) than KG had total rebounds (3). And it's not like he wasn't blocking out and going up for boards. He just couldn't quite get there.
Jeff Van Gundy kept ragging on unnamed Celtics for getting their hands on balls but not coming down with them. Well, those unnamed Celtics were KG, KG, and KG. I don't know how many offensive boards the Lakers had in this series, but I'm willing to bet Garnett's finger tips touched about 80 percent of them. KG hops are gone. No shame in that. His knees have been through hell over his career and especially over the last few years. But I can't help but think that, if Garnett could have rebounded the way he did in his Minnesota days, the Celtics would have won championship number 18 last night.
Ron Artest: I hate you, Ron Artest. I hate you so much it hurts. More than anything, I wanted Artest to ruin the Lakers. And not only because I hate the Lakers. For those of you who don't know or are still confused about my basketball loyalties, it breaks down like this: I was raised a Celtics fan, I grew up in Indiana so I'm also a Pacers fan, I currently live in Chicago so I'm a Bulls fan, and I have a burning man crush on Steve Nash so I'm a Suns fan.
Well, Ron Artest destroyed professional basketball in Indiana. Technically, the Pacers still have a heartbeat, but watching them is like watching a cherished loved one laying in a hospital bed, trapped in vegetative state and surviving on life support. Nobody goes to Pacers games. You can walk up to Conseco Field house and buy lower deck tickets during games. Seriously. I've done it. And I'm not talking about scalping either.
The Pacers were the best team in the league when Artest lost his mind and started the infamous Pacers-Pistons Brawl. So it's possible Ron cost the Pacers a title. He certainly ruined the end of Reggie Miller's career. But he begged Larry Bird not to give up on him. Bird didn't, and Artest rewarded Larry's faith by asking for time off to promote his rap album and then demanding a trade. Bird eventually traded Artest for half a season of Peja Stojakovic and the Pacers continued to swirl down the toilet. Another 10 years could pass before the Pacers recover from the mess Crazy Pills left behind...assuming the team survives that long.
I'm not kidding. Indiana might end up losing its basketball team in large part due to Ron Artest. And now he's an NBA champion. Redeemed some people are saying. He sure made some vital contributions, both during the series and especially in Game 7. I'm thinking specifically of the three-pointer he drilled with a minute left to bump L.A.'s lead to 79-73. Go back and watch that play if you get the chance. Paul Pierce lunged at Artest and then backed off. That's a classic "Dare Ya" move. I have no proof of this, but it seemed to me like Pierce wanted Artest to shoot that ball (moreso than he wanted Kobe or Gasol shooting it, anyway). He enticed Ron into doing it. And the Celtics paid for it.
Anyway, Ron's ring is further proof that life isn't fair. Anybody who tells you differently is selling something.
You're telling me an all-knowing, all-loving God
would allow something like this? I think not.
Update! As Cortez pointed out in the comments section, Artest apologized for his part in killing professional basketball in Indiana during his postgame press conference. He said he still feels bad about what happened and feels like a coward when he sees his former Pacers teammates. Well...that's...great...I guess.
Pau Gasol's uncalled travelling violation: I don't have too many gripes with L.A.'s 37-17 free throw advantage -- some, but not too many -- but I just about crapped a brick when Gasol was allowed to go up and down with the ball before hitting a layup with 1:30 left that make it 76-70 Lakers. JVG tried to defend it by saying that play is hard to see in real time. Whatever. That was a killer play.
And do me a favor: Don't start arguing that a) Gasol was fouled or b) that somebody touched the ball when he was going up. Hey, I congratulated the Lakers, didn't I? Do me a favor and don't get your panties in a bunch that I'm complaining about this play. You know who you are.
The sequence when the Celtics lost: There are a zillion things that go into every win and loss, but there's usually one sequence in every close game where you (or at least I do) think "Well, [Team X] just lost the game." For the Celtics, that happened last night when: 1) Derek Fisher nailed a trey with 6:11 remaining to tie the game at 64-64. 2) Rondo took the ball the other way and flipped up a one-handed runner that you could tell he didn't really want to take. It clanked off the front of the rim. 3) Kobe Bryant drew a loose ball foul on Big Baby in the battle for the rebound, then hit both freebies to put the Lakers up by two.
And that was when the Celtics lost the game.
Sasha Vujacic: The NBA's biggest douchebag contributed nothing...except hitting a pair of crucial free throws. Eff you, Vujacic.
Brian Scalabrine: Depending on which box score you're using, Scal either had a Mario or a trillion. What the hell. It's a party. Let's give him both.
In closing, I'd like to give out some thanks yous. Because it's the end of the season and everything. First, a great many thanks to Dan B., Chris, AnacondaHL and Wild Yams for their contributions to the site. A great many more thanks to everybody who reads and comments on the site. You guys and gals are the reason I keep doing this. And thanks to the NBA for not suing me despite the fact that I've never asked for or received expressed written consent to post all this stuff.
And now, for me and anyone else who was rooting for the Celtics or against the Lakers, I say...