Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Nice comeback, eh?
To all the jump shooting, offensive minded enthusiasts out there (see Saunders, Flip or D'Antoni, Mike), just remember when it comes time to win or at the least seriously compete for a championship, defense rules.
Boston won the last three quarters of Game Four, coming back from record setting deficits to put the Lakers squarely behind the 8-ball. Kobe Bryant, who's inconsistent performance in these finals and petulant attitude gives a whole new meaning to the acronym MVP (Most Valuable Pr*ck), has been spectacularly spotty this series. Pierce did a masterful job on him in the second half of last night's game, and made him work for his offense. Not exactly Jordan-esque. Folks that are trying to compare him to M. Jordan should really wait until, say, he inspires his team to win the next three games and become the first Finals team to overcome a 3-1 lead. That would be something. Bryant's worst performances in the series have been GM's 1 and 4, where he's been Iverson-like in the way his shot attempts generally surpass his point total. It almost seems like he's trying to prove something...hmm.
The bottom line is defense however; Boston's ability to step it up, and LA's inability to find another gear. Sasha Vujacic's matador D on Ray Allen with 0:16 left was both in part his trouble to keep Allen in front of him, and the fact no one rotated over to help, in what seemed like a total brain lock on the part of Vujacic's teammates. Their overall defense has been good to awful the entire series.
The only real troubling sign for Boston is Perkins shoulder injury. The Celtics were very good last night in playing small--KG at center, Posey at 4, with Pierce, Allen and House at the perimeter, but having a physical presence like Perkins to play along Ticket has been a godsend. KG has been decent in this series, but not triumphant. I know that KG apologists from around the world (see Robson, Britt) are just waiting for the trophy announcement to proclaim KG's ascendancy to the Jordan/Johnson/Bird/Duncan firmament, but this predominately has been Pierce's series. If anything, these finals are proving that KG--once again--is closer to Pippen than to Jordan. Considering the great player Pippen was, that's a huge compliment. Boston's Tri-Core as working, roughly equal parts have been a key in these Finals. All three have been vital to their team, with Pierce--not KG--as the final straw in the drink.
KG is one game away from being a Lord of the Ring; I wonder if Bill Russell is breathing a sigh of relief that he might not have to share...