Monday, June 8, 2009
A Look Back at the 2009 NBA Finals
I know, I know, it's only been two games. But it's over. If you've caught any portion of Game 1, and the final quarter and overtime of Game 2, you see it just like I do. I'll avoid harping too much on Game 2's collapse exclusively, but still, some points need to be made in regard to it. What follows, as much as it pains me to say it, is my case for why these NBA Finals (which never should have happened this way) are now officially over, in favor of the Los Angeles Lakers.
1. Things like Courtney Lee's miss at the end of regulation just don't happen to championship teams- or even teams that have a shot at a championship.
To me, this is the strongest point to be made, probably because it requires the least statistical qualification. How many teams that have won a title in any sport have you ever seen something like this happen to?! I can't think of one, unless you try and make a case for the 2004 Boston Red Sox (which you might be able to pull off). Still, that Red Sox team closed the door when they had to- the last four games of that series. The Orlando Magic, with that single play, created a microcosm of their playoffs as a whole, save the Cavs series. How many times could they have put away the Philadelphia 76ers, but collapsed? The Celtics? Numerous. Those series could have been over a lot earlier than they lasted. The Magic were the better team, yet failed to capitalize on that fact. In this series, they may not be the best team on the floor, but still, had a chance to even the series at one game apiece. Instead, they proved that they are just not ready for this. At all.
2. Even with Rashard Lewis (and Turkoglu to a point) playing out of their minds, Orlando still can't beat the Lakers.
If this playoffs has done nothing else, it's elevated Rashard Lewis' stock to a level I, nor many others, could have ever imagined. Ignore the first game's stats (the entire Magic team had a horrible line) and look at what he pulled off in Game 2. He finished up with 34 points, 11 boards and 7 assists. He hit clutch shots. He did everything you could possibly ask of a so-called "number two" guy, and yet Orlando still lost. The only thing that can explain it is...
3. Dwight Howard has been a virtual no-show, furthering everyone's perception of him as overrated.
I'd say that I could take some heat for this, but well, I just don't see that happening. The proof's right there for everyone to see. Actually, it's been there for quite a while- Howard's entire career to be exact. Howard can consistently put up double-doubles. In that regard, I'll admit, he's a virtual machine. But, how much are those double-doubles actually worth? Do his, in particular, actually impact the game, or are they just statistics that pile up due to minutes and positioning, rather than actual skill? Not to say that Howard isn't skilled. He's probably (definitely) the best center in the game currently, but what does that really say?
I won't tear up his game like others, namely ESPN's Bill Simmons, have , but I will whole-heartedly agree with these voices. Howard has no moves in the post, and he does nothing better than anyone else. he's simply a very large human being who sits under the net, on both offense and defense, and the results of said tactic allowed for him to put up 20 and 13 all year. He's 6 of 16 shooting in the Finals. He's turned the ball over nine times, and as a matter of fact, has made it a habit of turning it over two or more times per game this playoffs (it's happened in 16 of the 21 games). If he's truly the best at his position, and one of the best young stars in the game, where is he now? Stars pick their teams up. He's not even a LeBron James who has to do it himself. He has not one legitimate supporting cast member, but TWO! Unless he picks it up, he doesn't look like much of a star to me at this point.
4. And this is the worst: The Lakers are simply... (ugh) Better.
This is probably the most brutal point I've had to make yet in this space. I hate the Lakers, as many know. So if I'm saying that they are, indeed, the best team in this series, without a doubt, I'd bet they are. Kobe Bryant's not even playing up to snuff by his own standards, as even Lakers coach Phil Jackson said himself. That doesn't mean he's not having a good series. He's playing pretty damn well, actually- 69 points in two games, all while getting covered pretty thoroughly. But it's still not the type of play we've come to expect from Bryant at this juncture of his career. Still, and this is the scary part- it doesn't even matter.
Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom are absolutely tearing it up out there at the moment. They're taking advantage of defensive focus on Bryant, and the Magic have no answer. The fact that I've said "Lamar Odom is one of the most important players in this series" with a straight face is already the most mind-blogging quote of the month, and it's only the eighth. Plus, did you see Kobe at the post-game press conference? Theatrics or not, he was stoic after that big win. (I'm paraphrasing here) "Nothing to be happy about. We've still got work to do." Sounds like somebody who wants to win an NBA championship. Now.
As much as it pains me to say it, it's about time, Kobe.
I'm going to say Lakers in five games, but I wouldn't mind seeing it go a few more.