Well, the Lakers did it. They won it playing some of the best defense I've ever seen that particular team play, and were able to score just enough points to hold off the Celtics, who were down their biggest, most physical interior defender and rebounder. (Kendrick Perkins) Still, even without Perkins, the Celtic's couldn't hit a shot. I mean, their offense was basically give Paul Pierce the ball and clear that side of the court. That idea worked in 1 game this whole series (game 5), what made them think it was going to work in game 7 after it had been failing all game long? Not quite sure. In Boston's defense, they played unbelievable defense on Kobe Bryant. I mean, wow, Kobe got like 3 or 4 good looks all game long. Unfortunately, Ron Artest decided to start hitting shots and everyone on the Lakers squad grabbed about 30 rebounds each. I like the way they grade players after World Cup Games, so I'll do the same for this NBA Finals series.
Not one of Kobe's most efficient playoff series offensively, but that was to be expected with Boston's defense which often involved double or triple teaming him. From a leadership standpoint, Kobe got a little too hot-headed in game 5 when he basically stopped trusting his teammates and tried to do everything himself. (Including playing defense) However, there is no doubt that he is the Finals MVP because no other player in the series played harder or wanted it more than Kobe. You could just tell he gave it all on every play, every loose ball, every rebound. He was ultra intense for the entire series, and that's what you have to love about him.
Rajon Rondo: B+
From my perspective, Rondo was clearly the second best player in this series. He had a couple of off games, but was still THE most important player on offense for the Celtics. A huge part of their offense relied on fast break scoring, and no player was more instrumental to scoring on the fast break than Rajon Rondo. Also, like Kobe, Rondo played his heart out, never took a single possession off, and he played brilliant defense, keeping his hands active and creating numerous turnovers and fast break opportunities.
Paul Gasol: B+
Gasol was nearly unstoppable in the series, scoring and rebounding at will. This time around, Boston's physical defense was not an issue, and Gasol emerged as the best, most consistent big man in the series. He also came up big in the 2nd half of game 7, when his team needed his offense the most. Very, very impressive series from the Spaniard.
Paul Pierce: B-
I'm just put it out there that Paul Pierce is probably my least favorite player in the NBA. I've never seen a guy who flopped/acted/complained more. Say what you want about Kobe, but at least the guy doesn't act like he got hit by a truck every time he draws contact. Pierce was held in check most of the series by tough defense from Ron Artest, but still managed to get to the free throw line about a bazillion times in true Paul Pierce fashion. While he was one of the leading scorers for Boston, in the end, they needed much more out of him. He just didn't deliver.
Glen Davis: B-
Big Baby was surprisingly efficient, scoring the ball on many post up situations. He showed major hustle and tenacity to grab all kinds of loose balls and rebounds all over the place. However, he was lost trying to guard Pau Gasol, a match up where his lack of height really hurt him.
Ron Artest: B-
As much as I have criticized Artest through the season, I've got to admit at this point that the Lakers could not have pulled this off without him. Had they kept Trevor Ariza, they would have had no answer for Paul Pierce. Pierce is too strong for a player like Ariza, and the bullish Artest basically shut the Truth down for 6 out of 7 games. Not only that, Ron-Ron validated his entire season with the Lakers not once, but twice: first in the pivotal game 5 against the Suns at home by hitting the last second putback to win the game, and then again, hitting the go ahead three pointer in the final minute to put the Lakers up by 4 against the Celtics in game 7. Artest gets a B- however because of his questionable shot selection and decision making on offense.
Kevin Garnett: C+
K.G. was surprisingly consistent on offense, other than in game 2, when he was limited by foul trouble. He beat Gasol in face up situations time and again and also converted on several tough jumpers. Unfortunately, K.G. was terrible on the boards. He grabbed 4 or fewer rebounds in 3 games in the series and only got more than 6 in 1 game. In game 7, Garnett only came up with a paltry 3 boards, allowing the Lakers to dominate the offensive glass all night long.
Derek Fisher: C+
Everytime you think Fish is done, he just hits another big shot. He inching closer and closer to Robert Horry territory at this point, although he will need a few more game winners to seal the deal. At any rate, the Lakers probably don't win game 3 without Fish's absurd 11 point outburst in the 4th quarter, and his 4th quarter go ahead three pointer to tie the game in game 7 after coming back from a painful looking leg injury was just incredible. One of the most clutch players I can think of in recent memory.
Lamar Odom: C-
It took Odom until game 6 to actually show up. And it always boggles me how the he isn't a 20-10 guy every year. He's got huge size, amazing athleticism, and ball skills like a guard, but he's just so passive and soft it makes me cringe. But anytime Odom gets double digit rebounds, its almost a guaranteed Lakers victory.
Ray Allen: D
After an all-time performance in game 2, Ray never recovered. I would go as far as to say that the Celtics lost this series because of Ray Allen's ineffective shooting from the perimeter. Outside of game 2, Ray went 4 for 30 from three point range. OUCH. 0 for 13 in game 3 was an absolute killer. That was such an important game for the Celtics to win, and Allen was nowhere to be found.
So basically, Boston's Big 3 came up short. Rondo was the star of the team throughout the playoffs, and even the fact that the team is still known for the "Big 3" is laughable. Kobe and Gasol were brilliant, and the Lakers role players Artest and Fisher came up with big shots when it mattered most. Congrats to the Lakers on their 16th championship.