The L.A. Lakers lead the Spurs 3-1 in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals, and looks to put them away Thursday night (Friday morning in Manila) at Staples Center, where they own a 7-0 record in the postseason. DONE.
The Celtics are one win away from the NBA finals, for the first time in more than two decades. Ray Allen scored 29, hitting a long 2-pointer with a minute left after Detroit came within one point, then he and Kevin Garnett each made a pair of free throws down the stretch as the Celtics beat the Detroit Pistons 106-102 in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals. Game 6 is on Friday (Saturday morning in Manila) in Detroit, with the Celtics holding a 3-2 series lead. With a victory there or on Sunday back in Boston, the Celtics would advance to the NBA finals for the first time since the legendary Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish took them there in 1987. DONE.
What does this mean ? The revival of a historic rivalry, Lakers vs. Celtics, East vs. West, Bird vs. Magic, which for my generation defined the highest level of competitive basketball ever played on the planet.
A resurgent Celtics, with the acquisition of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, who both clicked with Boston veteran Paul Pierce, achieved the best record in the NBA (66-16) and was a favorite all season to make it to the finals. A remarkable feat, as the Celtics were the second worst team in the NBA just last season, with a 24-58 win-loss record.
But the real story is the L.A. Lakers, where at the start of the season superstar Kobe Bryant was asking to be traded, after failing to lead the team to a playoff series win for three consecutive years. The Lakers pulled together, behind the heads up play of Kobe, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and new acquisition Pau Gasol, and clawed their way to the top of the Western Conference.
This has been the most competitive season in a long while, where a 22-game winning streak by the Houston Rockets was not enough to get them anywhere, and which was snapped by the Celtics.
And if the Celtics and Lakers make it to the finals, this promises to be the biggest and most lucrative NBA series ever. As always, its all about the money. According to GQ, NBA commissioner David Stern is probably sacrificing a goat right now, hoping to ensure the matchup.
My money is on the Celtics to win its 17th NBA championship. For one, they’re obviously the hungrier team. Twenty-two years is a long time to wait for a team like the Celtics, the league leader in most championships won. For another, they now have the “Big Three”, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, who are even hungrier for a championship than their club. Any one of them could be considered a franchise player, specially Garnett, but none have worn an NBA championship ring. The years are catching up with them, and there’s a feeling of “now-or-never” among them. And their game has shown remarkable maturity in what are probably their peak playing years: unselfish play, good defense and a undefinable feel for each other, commonly described as “chemistry”.
An interesting sidelight: Celtics’ success, in part, traced to the fortunes of a blind son.
Winning is about good D, and the Celtics are the second best defensive team in the league.
Lakers eliminate defending champions Spurs, 100-92, to make it to the NBA finals. Kobe scores 39 points.
Bryant in charge.
Woohooo! The Celtics made it happen and eliminated the Pistons in Detriot, 89-81, behind the outstanding performance of Paul Pierce, and inspired play of role players Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and James Posey. After coming from behind, it was good, old-fashioned defense that won it for Boston. This is a team, boys !
Just when it seemed the Pistons might be in control with a 70-60 lead early in the fourth, the Celtics scored nine points in less than 2 minutes and went on a 19-4 run that put them ahead 79-74, never to look back.
BEAT L.A.! BEAT L.A.!
My only worry is that the Celtics’ Big Three appeared to be a bit tired (Pierce less so), worn out from playing two game 7s to get to the finals.
David Stern must be turning somersaults. I guess the goat sacrifice worked after all.
The 2008 NBA finals is Kobe’s chance for redemption; Inquirer writer predicts Lakers in six.
L.A. native and huge Lakers fan Paul Pierce, who grew up idolizing Magic Johnson, will lead the Celtics charge at Staples Center. Pierce, who grew up in Inglewood, Calif., in the shadows of the Great Western Forum, has always saved his best for the Lakers. Pierce has averaged 27.9 points per game in his career vs. the Lakers, greater than his average against any other team.
Celtics take Game 1 at Boston, 98-88, with the Big Three plus the outstanding performance of role-player Rajon Rondo, outscoring the combined efforts of Bryant, Gasol, Fisher and Odom. Kobe topscores for Lakers but is not Michael Jordan.
The Celtics withstood a late charge by the Lakers to take Game 2, 108-102, behind the heroics of Paul Pierce, who scored 28, and bench scoring led by the underrated Leon Powe, who had 21 points. Powe outscored both Garnett and Allen, who had 17 each. Bryant again topscored for the Lakers at 30, but it wasn’t enough to lift L.A., who trailed by as many as 22 in the 4th quarter.
No team in NBA playoff history has ever overcome an 0-3 deficit. Bryant, Vujacic and Gasol made sure the Lakers didn’t have to, leading the team to an 87-81 victory in Game 3. Sasha Vujacic is surprise hero in Game 3.
Boston fought back from an early 24-point deficit to beat the Lakers, 97-91, in Game 4, to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the series and move to within one victory of a historic 17th championship. No team has ever recovered from a 3-1 deficit in the finals.
The L.A. Lakers, backs to the wall and refusing to go down before a home crowd, defeated the Celtics in Game 5, winning 103-98. Paul Pierce came up with a monster game, scoring 38 points, but could not lift the Celtics past the determined Lakers.