LONGSHOTS: NBA Finals schedule causing reporting issues
by Dave Long
Well, I’m stuck in the same dilemma as last week. We’re in the middle of an NBA Finals with the Celtics in it, and I have to write a column a day before Game 6 will be played, but my column won’t hit the streets until a day after it’s played. This messes my tenses up, makes being current almost impossible and renders any attempt at a long-form column risky, because if you miss on your guess it could be totally irrelevant. So since I don’t want to ignore my favorite event of them all, I’ll go with another scorecard for how things have played out and will play as I see it today.
Lunatic L.A. Media Update: L.A. Times columnist TJ Simers wrote last week the “Celtics stink and their fans know it” along with that a fix (my word) was in by the league after Game 2 to extend the series to six or seven games despite the Lakers taking 15 more free throws than the Celtics. His take on Kobe’s 23 straight in Game 5? That he was “our ball hog” and deserves the blame for that loss. His L.A. Times colleague Bill Plaschke, though, had the best line in saying of the Lakers’ lack of fortitude after Game 5, “If home is where the heart is, the Lakers need to conduct an all-out search once they arrive.”
Was Kobe Really a Hog: Was it Kobe hogging the ball, or did he have to take matters into his own hands because every other Laker was either timid or couldn’t drop it in the ocean from Santa Monica Pier? I say the latter. If not, wouldn’t he have started heaving from the start? But he waited until no one did anything in the first half, when he had only 10 points. After that he probably said, if they’re not going to wake up I’ve got to go to work — which he did.
Will Kobe Go Off Again? I fear him a lot more taking the final shot with the game in doubt than I do a big point explosion — which could happen again, or maybe did already. Big point explosions don’t scare me, or at least are by no means a guarantee of anything. While I can say I hate to go below the Tarrier line (which we all know isn’t true) to make my point, the Celtics have after all survived the biggest-points-scored game in NBA history when Michael Jordan got 61 on them in 1986 in winning 136-131 in double OT. Of course, in the spirit of full disclosure, it didn’t work out quite as well when previous record holder Elgin Baylor went for 61 against them in a 126-121 loss. Still the point is when you have unstoppable scorer the likes of Wilt, Baylor, Kareem, Jordan or Kobe, you play exactly as I said last week .... “cover him with one guy as he gets his and shut down the other guys as they did beating LeBron, D-Wade and Howard. No big secret,” which is what they did on Sunday in holding everyone else to 35% shooting when only Pao Gasol hit double figures with 12.
Allen vs. Allen: Having said that, if Kobe goes off again (or already did) I’m bringing Tony in and giving Ray some R&R. It’s not that Ray was making him take tough shots, he was, but Tony Allen plays him better than anyone else and it might be worth sacrificing some offense — which is what I was yelling at the TV on Sunday night when it was unfolding. Sadly the TV did not answer back.
Ron Artest: Gotta wonder what Johnny Most would have called L.A. hit man Ron Artest if he weren’t quite as high above courtside as he currently is. Especially after the KG throwdown that got him a shove from Rajon Rondo in defense of the big fella. Probably along the line of what he said in the 1986 finals when 6’1” Jerry Sichting got into it with (“big, rough, tough, GUTLESS!!!!”) 7’4” Ralph Sampson. On the thug scale I put him below still public enemy number one Bill Laimbeer and above the Washington Bullet duo of Jeff Ruland and Ricky Mahorn, who he called McFilthy and McNasty. Or was Mahorn McFilthy and Ruland McNasty. Not quite the Tarleton twins in Gone with the Wind, but I never could remember which was which.
Rondo Factor: Anyone notice that it was Rondo who had the game-clinching buckets in Game 4 and 5 — with his steal and full dash to a lay-up of a Kobe pass in Game 4 and his (speaking of Johnny) Bird over to DJ! cut for a lay-up on the great catch and pass by Paul Pierce to make it a three-possession game in the final minute? Neither was his best — how did he do that bucket? —which came on hip in a bit early OVER Gasol and Lamar Odom a bit earlier. He wasn’t perfect, though, as he had seven turnovers on some crazy passes in Game 5, while going an embarrassing four for 17 from the free throw line made Shaq look like Rick Barry.
Ponce DeLeon Factor: That’s the dude who went looking for the fountain of youth during the days of the explorers I loved learning about in fifth grade. Not sure if he found it, but I think Kevin Garnett did. Or at least got a taste, as he’s been tough since his first two awful games in shooting 22 for 40 and anchoring defense that has kept a team that averaged 115 vs. Phoenix to 85 a game and 43% shooting. Not that it wasn’t expected, by at least me, as here’s what I said last week: “I’m completely confident Garnett will be a big contributor in this series. And when you look back on the Game 3 box score – I’ll bet I’m already proved correct” — with 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting, I was. And by the way, my favorite explorer was always Vasco De Gama ’cause I thought the name was cool.
Here’s What L.A. Should Be Nervous About: While they came as close has they have yet, the Big Three have not all played well in the same game. Paul Pierce had a stellar game in Game 5 and KG wasn’t far behind with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five steals, plus Gasol is still looking for his game. But Ray Allen, with distraction from his diabetic son’s health scare, had just 12, but was a team-high +12 when he was on the floor. I’m confident they’ll all do it once together to really complicate the MVP voting.
What Happened in Game 6: The Big Three finally did it and it ends — as I predicted — C’s in six.
At least I hope it did.
Dave Long can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He hosts Dave Long and Company from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.