NBA Finals: Not enough Kobe, not enough help for Lakers
BOSTON ó The best player was no match for the best team.
Even Kobe Bryant couldn’t solve Boston’s suffocating defense in the NBA finals, which ended Tuesday night when the Celtics crushed the Los Angeles Lakers 131-92 in Game 6.
Bryant knew all along the Celtics were going to force someone besides him to beat them, and there was nobody else in purple and gold up for the job.
Bryant finished with 22 points, but shot only 7-of-22 from the field and was quiet after a sizzling start for the second straight game.
The Lakers needed an MVP performance from Bryant. Bryant needed help.
Neither got what they wanted ó and they’re not getting another championship ring this season, either.
Bryant averaged 31.9 points through the first three rounds, tops among all players in the postseason. But the Celtics limited him to 25.7 per game and 40 percent shooting, rotating a number of defenders on him and making sure there was always help behind if Bryant did try to get to the basket.
And there was no one else to pick up the slack. Lamar Odom didn’t have a field goal until the fourth quarter, when the Lakers were already down by 29 points. Pau Gasol took only seven shots and finished with 11 points ó and he was their second-leading scorer until deep in the fourth quarter, when Odom went to work against the reserves who played the last few minutes while Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were busy celebrating on the sideline.
With the Lakers’ season on the line and no other choice, Phil Jackson left Bryant on the floor for the entire second quarter, instead of his usual break early in the period. Maybe the rest would have been a better idea.
Bryant missed all four shots and committed two turnovers in the period, when the game was decided after Boston outscored Los Angeles 34-15. And when he desperately needed his teammates to pick him up, the rest of the Lakers combined for only three field goals in the period, and the Celtics had a commanding 58-35 bulge by the time it was over.