Los Angeles Lakers vs Boston Celtics: Not This Year – NBA BasketballTuesday, May 10, 2011 21:58
The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics’ most recent run of dominance atop the NBA appears to be over.
End of an Era
With the Lakers being swept and the Celtics on the brink of elimination (down 3 games to 1 to the Miami Heat), it would appear that the latest rendition of basketball’s greatest rivalry is drawing to a close. Second-round knockouts in and of their own right do not signal such an end, of course, but, along with losing head coach Phil Jackson to retirement, Los Angeles appears to be a team in turmoil, while too many of Boston’s stars are simply too old to have fresh legs for extended playoff runs.
The end to the Lakers’ season was, in a word, ignominious. The sweep (the first in Jackson’s career as a head coach) was one thing. The blowout in Game 4 another. But the classless way in which they lost, with the flagrant, ejection-warranting fouls by Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum, could not have been more disgraceful, a shame to the storied history of the Laker uniform.
And that comes on the tales of Ron Artest being suspended for Game 3 after his own flagrant foul.
Although I did not approve, I could look past Odom’s foul. Was it flagrant and unnecessary? Absolutely. But elbows being thrown while players jockey for position are not uncommon and do not involve someone taking unusual measures to deliver hit. But Bynum’s blow on J.J. Barea did not have even the slightest connection to game play, with the seven-foot Bynum going out of his way to target the sex-foot Barea.
To make matters worse, Andrew Bynum was completely unapologetic after the game. His taking off his jersey on the court spoke volumes. Bynum sure did change his tune Tuesday after being hit with a 5-game suspension for next season that will cost him more than $700,000.
The two plays were so embarrassing that I actually felt bad for both Jackson and Kobe Bryant, who apologized for their team’s actions in their post-game interviews.
While no one could have expected Odom and Bynum’s loss of composure, anyone who watched the Lakers this year with an objective eye should not have been surprised by their lackluster play. On and off all season LA lacked the drive of a real winner, playing down to lesser teams (remember the loss to Cleveland?) and showing little interest in the defensive side of the ball.
Perhaps next season Lakers fans will not be so quick to dismiss regular season lapses under the guise that they will “turn it on” for the playoffs. Bad attitudes and lackadaisical play cannot simply be turned off like a light switch.
At least Boston showed up for their series. Even if the Celtics do not win another game, they did take at least one (Game 3) and pushed another (Game 4) to overtime.
Rajon Rondo alone exhibited more heart in Game 3 than the entire Lakers squad did all series.
If you haven’t seen the play on which Rondo dislocated his elbow, you should, just to understand how impressive it was for him not only to come back into the game just a few minutes later, but still affect its outcome. Or perhaps you shouldn’t. It is pretty gruesome.
If I didn’t already love Rondo before that game, I sure as heck would have afterwards.
As of this writing, of course, the Celtics are still alive. They do have the talent and experience to pull off a comeback, if the aged legs of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen can hold up. But having to win three straight against the Heat’s Big 3 — two of which games are in Miami — the outlook appears bleak.
And if the Celtics do fall short? Hopefully they go quietly, no matter what the score, and do not let their frustration get the better of them as it did the Lakers.
As for the future? Both teams need to rebuild. Not from scratch, of course, but all the pieces simply are not there anymore.
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