By Jason Wojciechowski on May 30, 2009 at 4:52 AM
There are still just under three minutes left in the game as I type this, but with the lead over twenty, I think it's safe to say L.A. is going to the Finals for the second straight year.
The main thought I have, and the one that I wonder whether the mainstream accounts will focus on, is that Denver had zero effort. The Lakers took hardly a contested shot all game. Sure, that was excellent, crisp ball movement, but that was also sloppy, lazy closeouts and rotations by Denver's defense. Carmelo getting caught in no-man's-land on an Ariza three, Sasha Vujacic being granted a wide-open corner three on a slowly developing break, Luke Walton catching a pass all alone under Denver's basket, and Walton hitting a corner twenty-footer with no one running at him all come to mind. Birdman and Kenyon Martin always bring the energy and effort on defense, but he seemed utterly alone in this game. That includes Carmelo, who had supposedly matured this season. That includes Chauncey, who's supposedly the solid veteran (despite constant bad shots and bad decisions leading to turnovers). In fact, Billups hammered the laziness point home: when Pau Gasol gathered in the rebound after Birdman flew in for a blocked shot on Shannon Brown's drive, rather than leave his feet to chase the ball as Gasol went for the putback, he stayed rooted to the floor and popped Gasol right in the head for a flagrant foul. It wasn't a dirty play, just a lazy one. Following directly as it did on Birdman's block, I thought that play was a microcosm of the entire game, especially since Pau hit both free throws.
So that's sad and it's unfortunate, but in the end, I'm a Lakers fan, and the Lakers won, so let's focus on them for a second. They obviously shot the ball very well. They've been given a lot of open shots throughout the playoffs, but they've spent a lot of time missing them. Tonight, though, they hit them. Vujacic hit his corner three, Ariza hit a bunch of open shots and also got to the bucket, Pau hit shots on the block, Kobe had a varied offensive performance, Luke Walton of all people hit his shots ... even Derek Fisher put in a three. The more important part of the offense going forward is how they got those shots, and the answer is through near-perfect execution. Kobe and Pau made passes out of the double teams, the ball got rotated, and the players receiving the passes made the right decisions, whether that was driving into the paint, taking the open jumper, or continuing the rotation to the next open man.
When it's a near wire-to-wire win, there just can't be much to talk about. Denver did take a brief lead in the second quarter, but aside from that, L.A. was entirely in control. So how about this: welcome to the Finals Shannon Brown, Andrew Bynum (last year doesn't count), Adam Morrison, Josh Powell, and Sun Yue. Congratulations to Kobe Bryant and Derek Fisher on reaching their sixth NBA Finals.