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Boston Celtics 131 LA Lakers 92 : Sorry Lakers fans, I know everyone and their mother picked you guys to win the championship but I gave you three reasons why the Celtics would beat the Lakers and boy was I right. The Boston Celtics dominated the Lakers last night to capture the 17th NBA Championship in team history and they did so in a decided fashion, beating the Lakers by 39 points. This one was pretty much over by halftime, so I won't go too deep into analysis on this game, but I will give a quick rundown of some performances before I analyze the series as a whole.
Pretty much everyone played well for the Celtics in this game, which is no surprise considering they scored 131 points. Kevin Garnett can finally shed his choker label as he came through with a monster 26 point, 14 rebound, 4 assist, and 3 block night. Ray Allen tied the record for 3-pointers in an NBA Finals game, knocking down 7 in route to a 26 point night. Paul Pierce capped off his MVP performance in the Finals with a 17 point, 10 assist night. However, the big lift for this team came from Rajon Rondo, who had his best game of the Finals and finished with 21 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, and 6 steals. Definitely an impressive effort all around for the Celtics and even the bench was impressive scoring a combined 39 points.
Now on to the good stuff, in my NBA Finals Preview I gave the three reasons why the Celtics would beat the Lakers : Perkins/Garnett defensively and on the boards are stronger than Gasol/Odom, Paul Pierce loves playing against LA, and the Celtics defense is much better than the Lakers defense. I also threw in a few wild cards: Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, and the Celtics bench and commented on some reasons the Lakers might win: Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant, and the Lakers bench. So let's take a look at each one and see how things played out.
Perkins/Garnett vs Gasol/Odom: This was pretty much proven to be true as a whole that the Celtics interior players were able to defend and rebound better than Gasol and Odom were. It wasn't so much just Perkins and Garnett but they definitely played the biggest roles in neutralizing Gasol and Odom. For most of the series, those two guys weren't able to play effectively and were pushed around and labeled soft. In fact, the Lakers got creamed on the boards in Game 6 48-29 and finished with just 2 offensive rebounds, which is the lowest total ever in an NBA Finals game. It's not so much that Gasol and Odom played poorly but more so the fact that they weren't able to take their games to the next level on a consistent basis because the Celtics dominated and controlled the inside defensively for most of this series.
Paul Pierce Loves Playing Against LA: Well considering that Pierce won the NBA Finals MVP, I'm pretty sure I nailed this one. Pierce was great for almost every game in this series, including his impressive Game 1 performance where he basically lifted his team to victory in the second half and set the tone for the whole series. He finished the series with his highest points per game and assists per game averages of the playoffs so far, sporting an impressive 21.8 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.5 rebounds a game. He also played phenomenal defense on Kobe Bryant, which was just as big as his offense was for the Celtics. I'm a big fan of Pierce's game and I'm glad he will finally get the respect he deserves as an elite player in this league.
Celtics Defense: I don't even really have to say much about this one, since I think it's been proven that the Celtics are a dominant defensive team. Their defense on Kobe Bryant alone in this series was phenomenal. For the series, Kobe shot only 40.5%, which was by far his lowest shooting percentage of the playoffs. Prior to the NBA Finals, Kobe did not shoot lower than 49.1% in any series. He also averaged his playoff low with 25.7 points a game. Again, most of the credit individually on Kobe goes to Paul Pierce and the help defense on the interior was spectacular as well and Kobe Bryant was never able to get inside for easy baskets throughout the series.
Ray Allen: In my preview, I had named Ray Allen as a potential X-Factor for the Celtics because he actually played pretty well against the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. I felt like Allen had begun to come out of his shooting slump and would have more open looks against a Lakers defense that was not as good as Detroit's or Cleveland's. Well, I guess I was right about that because Ray Allen torched the Lakers with an NBA Finals record 22 three pointers. Allen shot the ball great for the entire series, hitting 50.7% of his shots, including 22 of 42 on three's, on his way to averaging 20.3 points a game. Definitely a big time performance from Ray Allen in the NBA Finals.
Rajon Rondo: I had mentioned Rondo as an X-Factor and not a definite advantage because his play is too up and down and not consistent enough. However, when he plays well, the Celtics are almost unbeatable because it takes away the other teams advantage of not having to guard him. I figured that Rondo would have 2 or 3 big games in the NBA Finals and that the Celtics would win each game he played well in and that is what happened. He was strong in Game 1 finishing with 15 points and 7 assists in a Celtics win. He didn't score much in Game 2 but handed out 16 assists in a Celtics win and last night in Game 6 he was just incredible with 21 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds, and 6 steals. When Rondo plays well, the Celtics are tough to stop offensively.
Kobe Bryant: I already went into detail about how the Celtics defense and Paul Pierce were able to limit Kobe Bryant like no other team was able to do in the playoffs. My feeling here was that the Lakers would have a chance to win if Kobe Bryant went off but he would have to be efficient as well and not need 25 plus field goal attempts to score 25 plus points. However, the Celtics defense made sure that never happened and Kobe was inefficient throughout the series needing 131 shots to score 154 points.
Phil Jackson vs Doc Rivers: Phil Jackson proved to be a total non-factor in this series. I had questioned how much it would matter that the Lakers had a better coach than the Celtics did. Oops, I guess I should have questioned how much it would matter that Doc Rivers would out coach Phil Jackson. Who would have thought they would ever see the day that would happen?
Bench Play: The Celtics bench was phenomenal in this series. From Leon Powe's monster Game 2 performance, to James Posey and Eddie House stepping it up in Game 4, and last night as well where they scored a combined 39 points. The Lakers bench, on the other hand, was pretty much non-existent throughout the series, except for the 20 points Sasha Vujacic dropped in a Game 3 victory for the Lakers. Coming into the series, many believed that the Lakers had an advantage when it came to bench play, however, I never believed that to be true. The Celtics bench was deeper and more physical and it showed because the Lakers bench played soft and never showed up for the series.
So, congratulations to the Boston Celtics, 2008 NBA Champions.