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Lakers' 111-103 Game 6 victory over Phoenix Suns illustrates how momentum makes a difference

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The Lakers at the time nursed a comfortable 15-point lead over Phoenix and appeared only a quarter away from clinching their third consecutive NBA Finals appearance.

But then what appeared to be an innocuous play involving Lakers reserve guard Sasha Vujacic and Phoenix backup point guard Goran Dragic quickly turned into something devastating. Dragic beat Vujacic off the dribble, drove the lane, stopped at the free-throw line and threw Vujacic off-balance. Dragic's pull-up jumper swished into the net, prompting him to chatter into Vujacic's ear. The two Slovenian natives had an earlier exchange in Game 5, where both ultimately were called for technical fouls. But the one assessed to Vujacic in Game 6 proved to be more devastating.

Laker fans can debate all they want whether Vujacic flailing his arms and throwing an inadvertent elbow into Dragic warranted him overly dramatizing the situation and falling down to the ground. You can argue all you wantthat  the play didn't warrant a flagrant foul-1, particularly because Vujacic had his back turned on Dragic when he raised his arms. You can also point to other areas of the game, such as the Lakers' mostly non-existent defense, Pau Gasol's disappearing act and the team's two-of-nine clip during the Suns' fourth-quarter run as reasons Game 6's outcome had remained in question. But the Vujacic-Dragic incident in the Lakers' 111-103 Game 6 Western Conference finals victory over the Suns presents a backdrop beyond the fact they're advancing to the NBA Finals for the third consecutive year, are squaring off against the hated Boston Celtics and have the chance to avenge their 2008 Finals loss. 

It served as a teachable moment that illustrated Phil Jackson's contention all series that seemingly small things eventually affect the larger outcome. It happened in the Lakers' Game 3 loss when a poor rebounding effort spurred plenty of Suns run-outs and three-pointers to widen the gap. It happened when Ron Artest's ill-advised three-pointer with 22 seconds remaining on the shot clock in the final minute of Game 5 led to Jason Richardson banking in a tying three-pointer after the Suns grabbed two offensive rebounds. And it happened when Artest redeemed himself by sneaking past Richardson, grabbing Kobe Bryant's missed shot and converted on the put-back to give the Lakers a Game 5 victory.

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This time, the chippy display between Vujacic and Dragic served as that moment. Though Bryant's 11 fourth-quarter points ultimately sealed the win, the Lakers nearly squandered the game because of how Vujacic's flagrant foul with 11:18 remaining in the game spurred the Suns' momentum. Aside from the Phoenix crowd rising to its feet for the remainder of the game, Dragic converted on both free throws and then drove past Vujacic on the following play and then scored on a right-handed layup. The sequence marked a seven-point effort that slashed the Lakers' lead to 91-80.

That just marked the beginning of the Suns' 16-4 run that cut the Lakers' lead to 95-90 with 5:46 remaining. Frye hit a three-pointer off an inbounds pass. Stoudemire drove baseline and dunked over Gasol. Stoudemire converted on two free throws after drawing a foul on Lamar Odom. And Stoudemire scored on a layup after Dragic made a pass around Gasol in the lane, cutting their deficit to five.

Fortunately for the Lakers, they had other players show how their own little contributions can positively affect the outcome. Despite nursing a bloodied finger, Bryant's 37 points came off seemingly tough jumpers, a 10-of-11 effort at the free-throw line and several drives to the basket. Fisher's two critical jumpers in the fourth quarter as well as drawing an offensive charge against Stoudemire illustrated his continual embracing of his utility role. Ron Artest's 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting, hustle plays and even calming Vujacic down on the sideline showcased how Artest, of all people, can properly channel his motivations, in this case feeling slighted by Phoenix Coach Alvin Gentry for giving him open outside shots. And Andrew Bynum's 10 points on three-of-five shooting and improved mobility on defense demonstrated his commitment to fighting through the torn cartilage in his right knee.

But despite those efforts, seemingly small and negative traits could magnify in scope against Boston, which has saved its best play for the postseason. Who knows how Vujacic's act will affect his rotation and relationship with teammates, even if he had shown promise before that incident. Who knows if Gasol will turn around his uncharacteristic low-level contribution in time for the Celtics' rugged front line of Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Rasheed Wallace. And who knows if the the Lakers could afford to survive an up-and-down series against the Celtics, much like they did against the Suns.

The Lakers should feel confident heading into the 2010 NBA Finals, as the team has mostly played at its peak during the postseason. But let the latest performance serves as a stark reminder that something as small as an inadvertent flagrant foul can suddenly erase the hard work put in beforehand.

--Mark Medina

Follow the L.A. Times Lakers blog on Twitter: twitter.com/latmedina. E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Top photo: Lakers guard Sasha Vujacic pleads his case with the referee after being called for a flagrant foul when striking Suns point guard Goran Dragic in the fourth quarter of Game 6 on Saturday night. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times.

Middle photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant shoots over the defense of Suns forward Grant Hill to increase the Lakers' lead to seven points with less than two minutes to play in Game 6 on Saturday night. Bryant had 11 points in the fourth quarter and a game-high 37 points. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times.

 
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When Kobe did that shot at 30' left and touched Gentry, I knew we were the WCF Champions!
What a good night of sleep I'll have...
Cheers.
PS: Lakers in 4!

Momentum is a fickle thing. It can change up on you faster than you can spit.

All that matters is we won the game. When you have Kobe on your team, the momentum is always going to be in your favor. Because he can singlehandedly change that.

The difference being when once we would get killed on transition 3s, now we have the league's leading defense on 3 pointers. Posey was our biggest nemesis when he was in Celtic lore, this time around it's going to be Nate.

The high pick and rolls I still worry about but I trust that Bynum and Artest can do their thing. In the end, momentum is just that momentum. Someone, somewhere still has to claim the victory and that's what we did, that's what we will do.

It is good to be a Laker fan.

Especially one with a DVR that can watch the best player, play at his unstoppable best over and over and over.

Next.

No doubt, Sasha's bonehead play was as dumb as they come. Dragic flopped big time, a desperate Alvin Gentry tried to capitalize on the moment by pretending to go off on the sidelines in an effort to ignite the crowd. And it worked. As PJ so aptly noted, when a team can shoot the three, no lead is safe. A good lesson to remember for the Finals.

The Sasha incident isn't that it was a bonehead act but that Dragic is a hell of an actor. You get hit in the chin but you grab your cheeks? Dragic's flop was better than any Divac or Sasha ever made.

Mark Medina


Kobe again re-established himself as the best and most clutch player in the game sending him to his 7th Finals appearance and a chance to get his 5th ring (Michael Jordan didn't get his until he was 34)..........and momentum is what you write about?????????

If you really want to do a dissertation on momentum then I suggest you do a season long recap on Phil Jackson's rotations and sub patterns.................that's a classic study on the destruction of momentum.

Or just take a look at these playoffs.......go to the 3:11 mark of the 3rd quarter in game 3 of the OKC series when Phil destroyed our momentum and extended that series when he took Kobe out of that game.........or as recently as tonight when Phil's decision to take Kobe out at the beginning of the 4th nearly cost us another game.

Momentum is everything and Phil Jackson is the master of disaster when it comes to maintaining it for the Lakers


FINALS 2008 GAME 4

The Lakers are up by 18 or 20. in the 3rd quarter.....about 20 minutes away from tying the series.....Doc Rivers decides to go small...........Not only did Phil Jackson not make one adjustment, He didn't call timeout to STOP THE MOMENTUM......until the Celtics came all the way back.........Do you remember that?


Sasha should have never even been in the game to make the mistake........that was the coach's decision

"If you really want to do a dissertation on momentum then I suggest you do a season long recap on Phil Jackson's rotations and sub patterns"

Hey, didn't I do that?

Sure I did and it's the main reason I can't stand Phil Jackson.

mike t.

Another reason I can't stand Phil Jackson is
because he suckered the Lakers into making
Luke Walton a 30 million dollar player.

That is just outright unforgivable.

mike t.

You taking me up on my bet, Mike Teniente? Alot of talkin' but not enough walkin'....

Lakers beat the Celtics for the chip and you leave forever. What do you say?

well, what happens if I win the bet?

Gee, just like your view on the Lakers:
Strictly one sided.

mike t.

lets just say the celtics AINT winning it this year boys and girls.

LOVE how fish remembered 131-92 on the TNT show, gotta love it. We're ready Celtics, give us your best shot so we finish you off!

Waking up now after ... erm... celebrations (and some nap), I have a wonderful smile stick up on my face because yes, we won. (expected, predicted, gotten).

I have this smile no matter grey weather because yes, my Sun's got a name and a surname (and a middle name) and it's Kobe Bean Bryant, the RULER.

I feel this fantastic, because yes, I'm a proud Laker fan and my team just got it home what we deserved: another Final.
Third in Row.
Majestic achievement that leads to what will be my REAL pleasure.

THE VENGEANCE THAT WILL GIFT US ANOTHER RING.

Call it a fact.
Already.

Tonight game proved again that we can win against ambient, and referees (referees on Ambien too, probably... because they were all on drugs tonight, weren't they?).

Tonight game proved we are in that moment of the season when the unity of the team, finally blossomed in full, overcome momentarily elapsing of reason (cough cough... Sasha... for heaven's sake... you almost costed us the game... read me in chat if you wanna see how immediately I saw what that idiot idiot idiot display of 3 years old intentions risked to cause us...), and also a no forgivable elapsed shut down of undoubtedly wonderful skills (Pau: seriously mate, do something. Okay: Phoenix was your kryptonite. I get it. It's okay. FORGET IT. We need you, the REAL you against the Green Enemies. And you gotta have revenge on them too. I still believe only that thought was blocking you. Now shine, baby, because we win only thanx to your full effort too in the Final, okay? I trust you. Even though I wanted to choke you tonight, and NOT in any fancy way...).

We are at that point: yes, the one when the veterans shine and command (Derek, again: who doesn't get your value for us is a bit blind or just doesn't get the merit and the moments in bball... and boy, do they count or what?), the one when Lamar realize he gotta be serious and things turn out for the best, and yessir, the one when Ron The Basher Artest display his full effect on court, gaining back his shooting after a lacklustre series of games there (still he was always reliable on D, which is what we need primarly).

I know.
Yes I do.

I haven't mentioned yet the #1 Factor in everything Lakers.

I haven't yet because I am trying to find another adjective, another surname, anotrher nickname celebratinng him and I just can't come with anything, because Kobe's light blinded me again and my brain is just baking and soaking in delight.

Kobe Bryant.

That is already the best compliment Bball can give and create.

To get his immensity, I just wanna point out his face when he missed a FT (already the game was won, nobody doubted, even I had called it in chat.. and I never calla thing, you know me...).
He was firing out like that missed FT could count.

And for him, it was counting.

That makes Kobe the deadliest bball machine EVER appeared on a court.

His beyond human will to compete and win NO FRIGGING MATTER WHAT.

Even Nash, a fantastic warrior, paled in comparison with that.

Which says it all.

That is why I am convinced again we will take the Celtics in 5 or 6 if it gets truly nasty (I called all series this year... mark me there again).
And I am convinced both referees and Celtics will make this nasty.

But this won't stop the Mamba from his vengeance.
This won't stop the whole team from it.

The only one not knowing the pain of 2008 shame is Ron Ron: but he's also teh one (today it was shown so greatly) that wants this ring better than anyone else.

Beside Kobe of course.

I have no doubts.

And even if I will have to travel again 34 hours for maybe a stop of only 5, 6, 7 hours, I wanna be at another parade.

And I do know Figueroa will see another one.

It's Destiny.

He's calling us.

Kobe has said yes, and when the rest will say yes at the call as well, for how good Celtics can be, sorry, it won't suffice to stop us.

YES.

Good Sunday Laker Fam ;)

Catch you later.

If you win the bet? You're the greatest blogger of all time. Why is that so hard to see?? You have a lot to win, but you have a lot to lose.

If you're so sure the Lakers are going to lose, what do you have to worry about? Your glory is set.

Take the bet. Make a name for yourself.

Regarding Sasha, I remember how we've been blogging on how we need to get tougher, and not take any crud from anybody. Some even reminisced on how we could use the strength of Kwame, long since traded, fans looked forward to a new approach when the swap on the roster was made, Ariza out, Artest in...Bynum bulked up, Gasol bulked up. Why? Because things get nasty in the playoffs. Sasha's act was harmful to the team, but it was somewhere close to appropriate. Remember how we laughed at the start of last year or was it this year when Sasha claimed he had been working out, I think he was bragging about weighing 205 or something. Compare Sasha/Goran 2010 to Kobe/Artest 2009. Similar in ways. In both cases the Laker was the one confronted, in both cases both the Laker player raised their arms. Unfortunately, Sasha is not the star that Kobe was and is, and the approaching player in 2010, Goran Dragic, looks like a choir boy. much smaller than Sasha, and did not have a resume as long and colorful as Ron Artest. Why didn't the refs step in and grab Dragic, the way Artest was held back. by the ref, Joey Crawford , I checked it on youtube. Looking at it, I believe, yes, Sasha knew very well, contact would be made, and in my opinion set it up to happen, his head was already 90% turned away from Goran, and who knew what his last view of Goran was....well I think we all know he knew Goran was still chasing him, and he knew if he raised his arms, Goran would catch the elbow. Sasha is a colorful character, his first few years he had the choir boy looks, so he grew his hair to be look more radical, less innocent. because he kept getting those "rookie calls". He has the nickname and he has a growing reputation as a one on one defender. Dragic did overact, and the show started. Luckily we have Kobe on our team, and the conversations among the commentators are starting to put him at MJ level already. I do not blame Sasha, Many times we have seen players put their arms up and still get called for double technical in those situations. We've been talking for years, since the Celtics manhandled us in 2008. I say Sasha gets a speech from Phil, along with the entire team, as this is the time to close the doors. I do not want to know what the team will do, all I am concerned about is that the Lakers win 4 games before the Celtics do. Let's close this chapter and move on. However I suspect that........

DAVID STERN WILL TAKE IT UPON THE LEAGUE AND FINE SASHA AND PERHAPS THE LAKER FRANCHISE (deeper pockets and he likes money) AND SUSPEND SASHA VUJACIC (he likes the Celtics more than he likes the Lakers) FOR THE FIRST GAME OF THE 2010 NBA FINALS.

...and in my opinion that has been Stern's modus operandi for a quite a while.
I can't wait till we get a new commissioner, because the one we have now imparts his own emotions and agendas into his actions.

I dawged on Sasha all year, and for most of his career, but in this situation, I approve of what he did. Yes, the Lakers were fortunate to have won the game, and a loss may have led to a loss in game 7, and a chance at a championship could have hinged on that one incident. Blame the refs. they should have given Dragic a technical after he made his first basket, for taunting Sasha. Am I correct? Oh, I forgot the refs don't make calls that could affect the outcome of a game, they let the players work it out.

"Another reason I can't stand Phil Jackson is
because he suckered the Lakers into making
Luke Walton a 30 million dollar player.

That is just outright unforgivable.

mike t.

Posted by: Michael C. Teniente | May 30, 2010 at 12:30 AM"

Everyone should make as much as they are capable of making. That is common sense. Luke is not the only Laker player not pulling his weight in salary. I hope he comes back next year, and that his back injury isn't career hampering/threatening.....afterall, look what his father is going through. Unable to work because of his back.

"or as recently as tonight when Phil's decision to take Kobe out at the beginning of the 4th nearly cost us another game."

of course pfraud Kobe needs rest. He's not a machine he's a human being who eats and pisses the same way you do. He needed some rest to close out the 4th and the lead being 17 hell get some rest instead of getting his butt to be all tired. But then again there's a reson why you are Pfraud36 LOL!

FCM- I like the angle you take on that, about the teachable moments, but I have to stick to my assertion that when you have great veteran players like Kobe, momentum really doesn't matter all that much.

maybe against Boston it will, but I think Boston is going to play energized and motivated from the start.

mike t- i made you a proposal. maybe not the most feasible, but I made a suggestion, but I didn't hear a response.

man, insomnia is a (*&^* sometimes.

Greetings Lakeshow Fans,

The basketball gods have once again given us a heck of a matchup, Celtics vs Lakers 2010. What a trip for both teams thus far...picked to not EVEN MAKE it to the Finals. Hmmm...

I tip my hat to the Celtics team, who has overcome a rash of injuries and dispatched the top two NBA teams record-wise in the playoffs. The emergence of Rondo has really made Boston a serious contender to this point...

I tip my hat to our lakers team, who has made the trip to the NBA Finals for the THIRD CONSECUTIVE YEAR (Last team to do it? Yes, our Lakers from 2000-2002...UNHEARD of nowadays in the era of free agency...) and have overcome season long, nagging injuries as well to KB24, Bynum et al. Also, the addition of Artest has made the Lakers a bit more stable defensively and was brought in this year for one these reasons only, PLAY HARD by providing some offense on the perimeter and block and GUARD/PUT A BODY on guys like Pierce RELENTLESSLY.

There is no doubt that this year's Finals will be different from two years ago, NO QUESTION! Should be COMPETITIVE!

It's WINNING TIME AGAIN! Go get em' Lakers!

I expect the Lakers to play smarter this time around by making the Celtics move more DEFENSIVELY from side to side employing the INSIDE game, and not having them set up the "KB24 wall" from the onset PERIMETERWISE, which proved to be the recipe for disaster last time out. The Lakers are a much IMPROVED team offensively and on the boards. More importantly, DEFENSIVELY.

The BIGGEST difference is that the Lakers can play both BIG ball (halfcourt, inside play) and SMALL ball (full court, open play), much more versatile in style offensively and defensively, while the Celtics are a smash mouth, defensive oriented team that wants to BULLY their opponents and make them pay in transition offensively off mistakes, which they do quite well.

Should be interesting. With everything said, it's about the team who play's the SMARTEST and wants it the MOST!

I expect the Lakers to WIN it ALL again against a TOUGH Celtics team with a more patient approach offensively in the halfcourt, running when necessary in transition, and a dose of DEFENSE on their end, especially against Rondo and Pierce. OH, and with KB24's closer mentality...I'm sure the Lakers don't want to relive two years ago....

ADVERSITY is what makes CHAMPIONS!

Laker pride through ALL and ANY ADVERSITY! Peace

Mark Medina

You do know where the elbow is located, right? It is impossible to elbow someone while raising your arms. You should stick to non-fiction.

I'm speechless. That game will live on in Laker lore forever. Not only was it the Ron redemption game, but Kobe's 9 points in the final 2 minutes of the western conference close-out game will be at the top his his list of achievements as well. Wow. Kobe was unbelievable. Even Barkley was gibving him full, 100% praise, and I've never seen that from Barkley. Amazing. But, it means little if we don't defend home court these next few weeks.


Wes

This will be one of my top Laker games of all time, maybe top 5. Can the Celtics really hit us from as many angles as the Suns just did? The Suns had a solid inside game, quick bench players, tenatious defenders, and shooters up the wahoo. If the Celtics play one-on-one D, then I think we benifit. I think by doubling in the post the Suns traded Gasol's input for Ron's. They basically left Ron alone to double Pau. So if the Celtics don't double Pau and Bynum, sure they have a guy to stay down on Ron, but now both Pau and Bynum have single coverage that they haven't seen in 2 weeks, agaiinst smaller men. I think both Bynum and Gasol exploit this and score a lot more than they did in the Suns series.

And last time we met the Celtics in the finals we were the smaller team and paid a price for that disadvantage. Perkins was not as tall as Gasol, but stronger and wider. Garnett was bigger than Odom, Pierce was bigger than Ariza, Kobe was bigger than Ray, but Posey was I bit biger than Kobe I thought. And Rondo plays taller than Fish though they're both 6'1".


Wes

P ang,


The best part is that as he falls, Dragic looks directly into the camera, giving away where his mind is. I mean, how do you make eye contac't with a camera as you're falling backwards from a violent, jaw-shattering hit? It's very funny, and very obvious.


Wes

Kobe is the greatest!!! Go Kobe!!! Go Lakers!!!

On the man for man match-ups, the Celtics must have the deepest bench in the universe. So what do we do now?
1. Gasol must play like a man.
2. Odom must consistently man the traffic on both ends of the court.
3. Bynum must be reminded how much he wants the title.
4. Vujacic, Farmar and Brown must be assigned to Rondo. Fisher won't do although he is showing some great shooting.
5. Artest must consistently deliver on the offensive end.
6. Kobe must be reminded to shoot the ball when the rest of the team can't deliver. It is okay for the greatest player to shoot the way you did in Game 6 with the Suns.
I hope we will nail our 16th title at the expense of the Celtics.
Go kobe!!! Go Lakers!!!

what kobe did was amazing, what drago did was amusing...

Here's a six minute highlight reel. But they don't show all of Kobe's nine points in the final two minutes.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oPwZX1dn380


Wes

Momentum does matter quite a lot but not as much as the fact that teams with cooler heads staying alert on both ends and making smart plays prevail in clutch.The Suns had gone on runs late in the game on previous occasions too without any incident serving as a "momentum switch" because of reasons more tangible like their bench bringing in energy and effort against a Laker bench that seemed clueless or starters who were winded by the time.
Dragic went on that run because he can score like that when teams make mistakes.He did it against San Antonio too.
Sasha's reaction to his chirping was ill-advised and Dragic sold the flop well to the refs.The fact remains that he was just acting and didn't get going because of that incident.Whatever issues the two have , it makes them fight to outplay the each other and Dragic would likely have done what he did regardless.Sasha did alright in the previous game but cost his team in Game 6 by letting Dragic get to him.He still doesn't deserve all the blame for Phoenix getting back in the game.
The run Suns went on had to do with them fighting to save the game by doing the right things, the Lakers slacking off and having lapses and not having Kobe on the floor.The Lakers have shown that tendency of blowing leads all season.
Momentum means exploiting a favorable play or two to fire up oneself and forcing a domino effect on the other team's mistakes.But that isn't quite what happened in the 4th quarter

I can't help but remember how Gasol looked like the Lakers' MVP during the Thunder series. But Kobe is an odd beast. His mind is like the skin of a submarine, it gets stronger as the pressure increases. He was unbelievable last night.


Wes

The day that Phil Jackson had Pau playing the whole match except 2 minutes, he burned him phisically, since that day Pau's performance has gone down, i hope he is electric again for the finals, otherways lakers are fked

Still Lakers in momentum...to beat the green...
Go and grab the green...and grab trophy...

GL Go Lakers,...the Great Lakers

It's true Gasol had a pretty bad game, it happens. Still I thought he played hard the whole game. In the past he would have sulked, I didn't feel like he did that in this game.

I read Drew is thinking about having his knee drained. I hope he does it. It sure worked for Kobe and we need Drew to neutralize Perkins.

phred - One leftover from the chat...Rondo may not be all that everyone is saying he is but he has come to be really good this season...never mind the analysts/commentators...even the big three of the C's calling him the best player on the team may be overstating things but there has to be some truth to what they are saying....his performances of late reinforce that thought...so...it is not just people getting on the Rondo bandwagon :)
Btw, I hope the series ends up proving you right and almost everyone else wrong about Rondo :)

WOW!
Kobe, un bee leev uh bull!
A great win in a tough environment, that's what champs do.

The great thing about the Lakers is there is always someone to step it up to go along with Kobes great play.
Shut down Gasol/Odom and Ron comes through big and they get timely shots from the bench. Ron has a bad shooting night and Fish picks it up.
Other nights Odom fills the gaps. And when you think all might be lost, Gasol puts back a Kobe miss and wins a game and a series (OKC).
But when it gets rough, there is Kobe.
Masterful focus and concentration.

Was good to see the TNT guys after the game finally proclaim Kobe is the best in the NBA.
I forget which one of them said, "Kobe is the best, it's not even close".

Same can be said for the Lakers.


I think that last shot of Kobe's was the best of his career. If he misses it, the suns heve two possessions to tie the game. Here's a recap by AK:


"2:18 on the clock. The Suns were within one of their trademark treys of knotting up what appeared a rout in the making. Lakers fans were nervous and Vujacic was about to enter a witness relocation program.


Thankfully, he plays for the team with Kobe Bryant on the roster.


Out of a timeout, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest passed the ball back and forth as Kobe fought Grant Hill to free himself up. The Dukie was backed down, then Kobe received the ball just as Channing Frye came with help. Then Bryant pulls up on a dime from 21-feet out and over a pair of hands.


Money. The lead was back to five.


On the next possession, Odom poked away a pass across the lane from Nash to Amare, and Kobe took the loose ball off to the races. Only Frye stood between the Mamba and the bucket. Kobe was fouled in continuation on a perfunctory reverse layup, then knocked down both free throws. The Lakers were now seven points ahead of Phoenix with less than two minutes to go.


P.A. Molumby/NBAE via Getty Images

We're cleared for take off to the Finals.


But Phoenix wouldn't quit. Stoudemire hit a running hook shot to draw the Suns closer. On the next possession, with seconds ticking down, Odom gave to Kobe, who backed down Hill along the sideline. Bryant spun to face up, then took a few dribbles to the right, Hill all over him like an ugly white suit from a failed photography experiment. Feet planted on the downtown arc, Kobe took the customary pump fakes, and then let fly.


And you know how the movie ended. Net.


Since the moment apparently didn't contain enough flair, after falling back towards the Phoenix sidelines, Kobe regained his balance, then gave Suns coach Alvin Gentry a slap on the backside. As I sat jawdropped trying to decide whether the shot to the bucket or to Gentry required more stones, Phoenix called timeout and Kobe did the "airplane" arms as he drifted back to the Laker bench, meeting Josh Powell for a flying chest bump.


It was then 107-100 in the Lakers' favor with just 35 seconds remaining. Ballgame.


For Bryant, this was the perfect capper for a series near perfect from start to finish. Coming into this contest, we had noted how Bryant wasn't just playing inspired basketball. He was playing out of his skull by his own high standards. 33 points per game on 53 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent success from behind the arc. Games 3-5 with 30+ points. Game 1 at the big 4-0. 9.6 assists. 7.4 rebounds. 1.4 blocks. Three straight games within screaming distance of a triple-double.


Tonight provided the bookend for what has been a remarkable showing. 37 points (12-of-25 shooting, a trio of triples in eight tries). 10 free throws canned on 11 visits. Six rebounds. Two assists. Two steals.


It's not only fitting he closed out the game in such decisive fashion. It is the only way things should have happened. In every way, shape and form, Kobe flat out earned that right.


No word yet on whether Sasha flew home with the team or took a Greyhound on his own dime.


--Andy Kamenetzky"


Wes

Great and if they win the playoffs the city can spend a fortune on a parade for millionaires and their thug fans. Why not just encourage people to go out and celebrate which would stimulate the economy??? I know why...because this city (and state) is run by a bunch of moronic liberals. Can't wait for retirement when I put California in my rear view mirror.

It's a lovely Sunday morning.

A cup o joe and reading about my Lakers win last night.

I told y'all: ride of the valkyries & O fortuna.

I would have appreciated hearing Mark Jackson's: Mama, there goes that man!

I can live without it. :)

The Alvin Gentry love tap, after burying the dagger, was beautiful! I have
never heard a coach be more candid about Kobe. He was beautiful. I
really would have appreciated another comment about: Is General
Schwarzkopf in the house, but seeing Nash cry was almost as good.

Go Kobe!
Go Lakers!!!

So .... Where's Butler?

Good Morning Laker Family,

Great win by our team last night to close out the Suns. Now on to the finals against the Celtics. Here are a few more things to consider as we wait for Thursday to arrive:

In 2008, the roles were reversed in that the Lakers were favored by many of the experts, writers and media to win the title despite the Celtics having homecourt advantage( a lot of it probably had to do with the Celtics struggling in 7 game series against the Hawks and Cavs). Now I hear most of the same people picking the Celtics to win despite the Lakers having homecourt and rightfully so because the Celtics have ousted two EC favorites to win it all in Cleveland and Orlando. They play suffocating defense and love to win any way they can, including ugly.

Regardless of what the Lakers say, 2008 is fresh in their minds and they will use it as fuel in the rematch while it gives the Celtics confidence that they've done it before. This series may come down to which new addition and bench players will step up and make the difference. Which resident crazy will finally crack, Sheed or Artest? Which bench will be more productive?

This series is better suited for Andrew Bynum's strengths, even in limited minutes. He may even play more minutes against the Celtics because they don't run as much as the Thunder, Jazz and Suns. Despite his struggles, Drew's size, length and presence can make a difference in this series. Lakers must utilize him in the post in order to get Perkins in foul trouble. Bynum MUST also rebound and protect the basket better against the Celtics.

Something has to give. Lakers have been staunch at home and so-so on the road in these playoffs while the Celtics have been road warriors, but not as good at home. Will this trend continue?

Overlooked and left for dead. Coming into the postseason, both teams struggled down the stretch with injuries, inconsistencies and losing. There were major questions surrounding both teams with the defending champions looking more vulnerable than ever with Denver and Dallas being picked as the biggest threats(both were eliminated early). Boston wasn't given much of a chance with the Cavs and Magic looking unbeatable and having homecourt advantage, but the Celtics were now healthier and hungrier and regained their defensive swagger. The key has been the rest, health and pride of both of these teams.

Rondo and LO factors. Rondo has entered the elite class among PGs and is the fourth in a row that Fisher must face. The Lakers must take away Rondo's ability to get the others involved and make him a scorer only because unlike Westbrook, DWill and Nash, Rondo has more weapons that can beat you in KG, Pierce, Allen and a solid bench.
LO will coming off the bench this time as opposed to starting two years ago which changes the dynamics a bit in that he may be matched up against Sheed or Davis which would allow LO to use his quickness and slashing ability. LO must play and stay aggressive as well as lead our second unit to better efforts and results.

Star power. Celtics/Lakers, Lakers/Celtics. Nuff said.

PJ and Doc Rivers. Game of chess. Who will make the best in game and game to game adjustments.

I can't believe that some on here are defending Sasha by saying that Dragic flopped. We all saw that he flopped. The refs probably know that he flopped. The important point is that Sasha had ABSOLUTELY NO BUSINESS reacting to Dragic at that point in the game. This is about winning, not about sending messages. The Lakers were up 15. The 2 technical FT's from Dragic preceded the next possession where Sasha played matador defense and practically escorted Dragic to the basket. That cut the lead to 11 and from there the game was in jeopardy again. There is no sugar coating it. That was just a horrible sequence for Sasha. He was in the game to buy a few minutes of rest for the guys like Kobe who were winning the game for his team. That was his role. Not to send messages or settle personal scores. Not to almost cost your team the game.

LAKERS FAMILY

I am fully aware that not everybody that blogs here is a LAKERS fan, that even among LAKERS fans there is a tendency of being a 'fair-weather-fan' and that the dark sided trolls can at times take possession of the feeble-minded wannabe -but-they-are-not-perfect-and-I-am LAKERS fans.

True LAKERS fans root and die for their team no matter what. And if the inevitable happens and their beloved team goes down for whatever reason, the true LAKERS fan takes it like a man and without looking back...continues to root for his team...right or wrong, without second guessing the coaching staff (10 championships rings should convince anybody that the coach MAY know what he is doing?) or unloading on any of our players because they had a bad game?

KB Blitz posted
>"...of course Kobe needs rest. He's not a machine he's a human being who eats and pisses the same way you do..."

Well, the same thing applies for the rest of the team... even the self-proclaimed 'machine' is NOT a machine but I guess we already knew that. The closest we come to a machine is KB who surpasses any adjective in any language to describe him and his GREATNESS. But even he, is only human!!

However, I am digressing from making my point. I bow to the TRUE LAKERS FANS on our blog (fortunately this list is longer than the dark sided one) who objectively and intelligently make sound comments and suggestions on how our team can overcome adversity, and I join you in our quest for another championship ring. As our fearless leader would say: 'It's gonna be fun!!!

GOOOOOOOOLAKERS!!!!!'

Yeah, Sasha is a pinhead but that was such an obvious euro-flop, then rolling on the ground like a friggin soccer player. Just as girly-man as their Limp D zone and their leader crying...boo hoo. Would Kobe ever cry? Hell no, he's a man.

I've ragged on D Fish this year but dude is a stud come playoff time. Look at the line up of PG's he's faced and how many big shots has he drained. I'm not worried about Rondo, Fish will hold his own.

And Kobe... Gentry said it all "best player on the planet, it's not even close, he's an assassin." No one has ever hits more clutch shots with such a high degree of difficulty, MJ included. If the refs treated Kobe like Durant or Wade he'd be averaging 40/game.

Celtics will be tough but We will prevail. Talk all you want about 2008 but that is history that only serves to motivate the Lakers. The Lakers are much stronger defensively and on the boards with Bynum and Artest up front. The big 3 are older especially Garnett...not the 2008 version He will have his hands full with Pau. Perkins is a fighter but no offensive threat, Paula will have Ron Ron in his jock all day long. But the big edge...who will stop the unstoppable one, the assassin, the Black Mamba, #24??? Anwser = No One. We won't even need home court. Lakers in 6 for #16. MVP Kobe!

WHOCARES

"Great and if they win the playoffs the city can spend a fortune on a parade for millionaires and their thug fans. Why not just encourage people to go out and celebrate which would stimulate the economy??? I know why...because this city (and state) is run by a bunch of moronic liberals. Can't wait for retirement when I put California in my rear view mirror. "
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
You are obviously not from CA, neither are you a LAKERS fan and although entitled to your opinion, you should be a little more informed. FYI the City did not spend a fortune for the parade - it was financed by donations from the private sector millionaires as a tribute to our Champions and enjoyment of the fans (who by the way, are not all millionaires and not all thugs) so answer me this:

If you are so unhappy in CA why keep punishing yourself and wait 'till retirement, are you a masochist? LOL

GOOOOOOOOLAKERS!!!!!

Well. As Kenny Loggins, or if you'd prefer, Camp Lo, would say, this is it.

The ultimate rivalry.

Two of the greatest, winningest franchises in the history of professional sports vie for an O' Brien.

Simply put, the Lakers are the defending champs, but the C's have the edge in this series.

They're 7-5 vs. the Lakers in the Big Three/Four Era. They've knocked out the top two seeds in the playoffs. And they're the only team in the last 3 years to oust the Lakers in the postseason. They've done it with outstanding defense, primarily. The Lakers have struggled to score in every game they've played v. them in the Big Three/Four Era.

They've gotten far better support from 1 to 9 than LA has. And though key players like House, Powe and Posey are no longer in Boston, Glen Davis, Tony Allen and even Nate Robinson have emerged to take their place. Throw in Rasheed Wallace and their new star, Rajon Rondo, and they're loaded. The Celtics have pushed around, bullied and humiliated LA in the last 3 seasons. And they'll be ready to go with 5 days to rest themselves.

LA's mettle is proven against everyone but the Green. They've closed out all 3 playoff series on the road. Their franchise player has been phenomenal. Their core players have been consistent. But their bench support has been spotty, and their ability to defend the PG is almost non-existent. And, for the 3rd straight year, they don't get much out of their starting center in the postseason.

But LA is different too. The Lakers have a title now. It's important to have that experience. They have a physical defensive-minded player at the 3 to contend with the 2008 Finals MVP, for whom LA had no answer. They have Bynum now who can at least for a quarter and a half 1) force Garnett to defend him one-on-one, or 2) pull Perkins off of Gasol, which was the matchup which defined the 2008 Finals. Kobe doesn't forget or forgive. And, every single player on the roster has *something* to prove.

The somber, muted trophy ceremony last night was beautiful. Coop presenting the trophy sent a message to the team. Phil's comments after the game indicated he kinda wants this too. What a great tone.

Objectively, the presumption should be the C's winning this in six. But I really *believe* LA will do it. At home. At the end of a very tough series.

Re: hobbitmage's comment: "I would have appreciated hearing Mark Jackson's: 'Mama, there goes that man!'"

I think Mark Jackson should change it to: "'Man, there goes that Mamba!"

Carlos DeeP,

You need to work on your reading-comprehension. The millionaires are the athletes and the thugs are the fans at the parade. Also, the city DOES spend a fortune. It costs a ton of money for the police to babysit those thugs. Don't believe everything Tony Villar tells you...he's a liar...just ask his ex-wife.


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