It’s official: The Los Angeles Lakers will be the Boston Celtics’ NBA Finals opponent. Wherever Red Auerbach is, I hope he has four more cigars ready to be lit.
Kobe Bryant smelled the Celtics and wasn’t about to let an idiotic Sasha Vujacic elbow and the ensuing Suns run keep the Los Angeles Lakers from reaching the NBA Finals. Bryant did everything he could to put the Lakers into the next round, hitting shots with defenders’ hands in his face and bodies only inches away from his own. When Kobe gets hot like that, there’s little an opponent can do to stop him.
Of course, it will be tougher to get into such a zone against the Celtics. Back in 2008 (and prepare yourself for a whole lot of 2008 talk) Bryant was stifled by a C’s defense designed to limit his clean looks and keep him off the free throw line. Now Bryant’s playing as well as he has all season, looking every bit an indestructible force while humiliating any Sun that had the privilege of defending him. It was as if Kobe was saying to those players, Grant Hill? Maybe he deserved to be in the same gym as me when he was in his prime. Jason Richardson? Perhaps he could touch me in a dunk contest. A real game, though? Please. Jared Dudley? Under no circumstances can he ever come close to guarding me.
After Kobe’s last jumper, a turnaround fadeaway with Grant Hill draped all over him, Alvin Gentry started smiling. His team was down seven points with 50 seconds left and their season ready to be flushed down a toilet, and Alvin Gentry fucking smiled at how good Kobe was. I’ve never gone from liking someone to hating him so quickly. It’s not even that Gentry was smiling at Kobe, of all people. It’s that he was smiling, period. Have some heart. Show some pride. Be pissed off that you’re losing and devastated that your season’s over, not impressed with what an opponent has accomplished.
I can promise you this: Doc Rivers will only be smiling if his Celtics are winning the game and the series. He will not smile at a made Kobe jumper and he will not smile if the Celtics fail to win four more times. And if Doc ever did crack a smile at Kobe’s exploits, he wouldn’t be smiling for long: I would drive straight to Boston my damn self and hit Doc with a roundhouse kick straight across the jaw.
Back to the upcoming Celtics-Lakers series, I don’t have to tell you how important it is. The Celtics can either put an asterisk up next to last year’s Lakers title (* Kevin Garnett was injured or else the Celtics would have won) or they can validate the Lakers’ championship and improve Kobe Bryant’s legacy. The winner of this series becomes a mini-dynasty, while the loser risks finishing as a one-time pony that couldn’t return to the winner’s circle for a second time.
I’ve got goosebumps already.