By Craig Filazzola
We all knew that the series was over once the Orlando Magic dropped Game 4 Thursday night in their arena. Should we be surprised that Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers closed the deal so soon in their 99-86 Game 5 victory? Not at all.
Bryant averaged 32.4 points, 7.4 assists and 5.6 rebounds per game in the finals. He took care of the ball, only committing an average of 3.2 turnovers for each contest. If you take out Game 3, he shot a remarkable 32-34 at the free throw line, 94 percent. This guy clearly wanted to win his fourth title and first without Shaq.
The biggest lesson of the playoffs was how one player couldn’t win by himself. Just ask LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. Kobe Bryant (pictured lifting the trophy to the right) needed the help from his supporting cast and got it. Trevor Ariza was the one to start key runs for the Lakers. Whether you want to call him “the X-factor” or “the energizer” he certainly made his presence felt for the first time in his career. Derek Fisher made it look easy with his huge baskets. Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol weren’t overly impressive but knocked down some shots. Andrew Bynum was the odd man out, because he underachieved and didn’t contribute.
What about the losing team? The Orlando Magic had their chances to win Game 2 and Game 4 and couldn’t finish the job. They learned the hard way that a team gets so many chances to win games in the finals. Nobody was able to consistently make big plays. With Dwight Howard, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis, there’s no way that should have happened.
Orlando was puzzling from wire to wire this series. The Magic showed very little effort in Game 1, getting trounced 100-75. Game 5 was just as much of a disaster. In an elimination game at home, how could they allow the Lakers to go on a 16-0 run? Somehow they managed to get destroyed late in the second quarter and trailed 52-40.
Give credit to the Lakers. They were the most cohesive team this year and deserved to win the championship. They were the only team to live up to expectations, which we’ve found to be easier said than done.
Most people either wanted the Magic to make it a series, a LeBron-Kobe finals or a rematch of last year’s Celtics-Lakers. They didn’t get any of that. Instead we all got a matchup that left us empty. Hopefully next year’s finals will be more fulfilling.