The Celtics are probably the only team in the NBA with not one foreign import on their roster. OK, what does that mean? Well, in this instance, especially judging by how the Celtics just manhandled the Lakers, I would say hunger, pride and toughness. This Celtic team had three stars and one former player as coach that had success as individuals, but never had accomplished the team success to validate great careers. They hungered for it and it showed with how they stayed focused, fought through injuries during this series and played as a complete unit. They showed pride and respect for the history of a franchise that had not won a title since 1986 after winning 16 before. They capped it off with a toughness defensively I have not seen since Detroit won back-to-back titles led by Isiah Thomas.
The Lakers are littered with players from all over the world. And yes, they deserved to be in the Finals. But they also on paper deserved to be smacked around. I said before the series that they were a soft unit and they did not disappoint. These Celtics grew up playing and loving this NBA game. They saw it every day and they knew as youngsters the history and emotion of a championship. This is a learning process for the young talented Lakers and their mixture of foreign born players. I played in Greece and I had no idea how important it was to beat Turkey until I lost a game and had rocks thrown at my house. I fought the passion and hatred for other teams we competed against until I started to realize that this was their history. This is the problem facing the foreign players. I bet Gasol, Radmanovic and Vujacic had no idea of the history of Celtics-Lakers. They do now, but it's too late because they got on a plane, flew across the country and refused to fight in the biggest game of their lives to date.
Defense was stifling
I never imagined saying Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were very good defenders, but I reserve the right to change my mind. They were unreal. I always respected both of them, but now it has risen to another level. The Celtics are the best defensive team I have ever seen in this league. They were on a string the whole year defensively and that is why the Celtics are the champions. I have never seen a team dismantle the triangle offense like they did in this series. Kobe could not even get to the rim in Game 6. He might not ever admit it, but the Celtics made him second guess and hesitate every time he touched the ball in this series. Yes, he needed some help, but before the series if I remember correctly everyone was raving about how good the Lakers' offense was. Truth is, in essence the Lakers had no offensive closers to help Kobe. When the going got tough in the later quarters players like Gasol or Odom disappeared when Kobe needed them most.
I also heard the Lakers' bench was the best in the league. I disputed that call as well in my preview article. I looked at Boston's bench with guys like Sam Cassell, Eddie House, James Posey and PJ Brown and said... Are you kidding me? These guys are not only tough minded but closers. They did not fail because all of them made big plays late in games when the Celtics needed them the most. Meanwhile, the Lakers' bench played scared and intimidated with the exception of Vujacic for a few games. Luke Walton gave the Lakers no production and it got to the point where Phil Jackson played Chris Mihm in Game 5. Mihm had not played in months.
Boston won from start to finish for a reason. They won the Texas Triangle, which is unheard of. They beat the Lakers twice during the regular season, but yet people picked the Lakers. Go figure!
He was ripped during the early series, but people failed to realize he was playing third wheel after being first, second and third option for so many years. He hit a speed bump and people ripped him. All due respect to Paul Pierce, who I truly love, but Ray Allen was MVP of this series for one simple fact... If he had not averaged 20-plus points in this series and shoot the three like mad, the Celtics would not be celebrating today.
Unsung heroes: James Posey and Eddie House were huge. Posey has proven to be one of the best multi-purpose role players in the league and House continues to be beat down by coaches shutting down his role and minutes, but yet continues to keep himself prepared when his name is called. House will carve out a 15-year career in this league just based on his professionalism and ability to make buckets.
Doc Rivers stayed calm and on purpose all year. He carried no ego when it came to coaching and his relationship with his players. Hence it was not surprising to see one of the Big Three grab the clipboard and point out something to the team. And it was normal for assistant coach Tom Thibodeau to be up standing next to Rivers barking out directions. I guarantee you will never see that happen with old-school coaches. Rivers did not outcoach Phil Jackson. He just coached his team better and now he has a championship because of it.
Prediction for next year
- The Celtics need a backup center and a third point guard with size, which would allow Eddie House to play consistent minutes. I expect PJ Brown to return, but not Cassell.
- They will be challenged by Cleveland, Detroit, Orlando and Washington.
- They will be back in the Finals for a chance at two straight.
Los Angeles Lakers:
- They need a pure small forward, so I look for Odom to be used as bait because Gasol is a better power forward with Andrew Bynum returning.
- Phil Jackson historically only likes catch-and-shoot players in that triangle offense, so I expect them to try and upgrade the bench with shooters.
- They will be challenged mainly by San Antonio, New Oleans and Phoenix.
- They will not get back to the Finals because I think the West is too competitive and dominance will not happen.