Well the NBA Finals have come and gone, and somehow I was able to correctly predict the Lakers would win in 7 games. After I went and wrote a blog entry about how Kobe had started to win me over (not to actually root for him, but to be in awe of him) Kobe went on to play a pretty lousy series thanks mostly to the great defense of the Boston Celtics. Since the series was such a see-saw battle, and nobody played consistently great throughout the seven games, the Finals MVP Award was given to the default, best player on the winning team, Kobe Bryant. But I was completely underwhelmed by Kobe’s performance all series long, and it felt just wrong to give the MVP to a man who shot 6 for 24 that same night. The only problem to my refuting Kobe as MVP argument was that nobody else seemed to stand out all series either, but when Ron Artest hit that unbelievably clutch 3 to answer Sheed’s 3 and put the Lakers back up by 6, it hit me much like Ron hit that jerk Turtle look alike Pistons fan that Artest deserved the Finals MVP award. He was the one that came up the biggest in the biggest spot of the series, and plus, he gave that beautiful double hand kiss and look to the sky afterward. I know that this is kind of crazy since Boston obviously centered their defense around making Kobe’s job of scoring extremely difficult, and they left Ron wide open, begging him to shoot. But Ron hit those shots when it mattered, and Kobe struggled. Simply put, Ron did his job better than Kobe did. Let’s look at some numbers, shall we.
To me, the best argument for Finals MVP, is who did the most for his team to help them win, and actually came through in big spots. So here are Kobe and Ron’s numbers for games 1, 3, 6, and 7, since those were the games that LA won.
Kobe: 27 ppg, 37.2% FG, 15.8% 3pt FG, 87.5% FT (35 makes), 10 reb pg, 15:11 A/TO, 8 steals, 4 blocks, and +31 +/-
Ron: 13 ppg, 44.2% FG, 40% 3pt FG, 85.7% FT (6 makes), 4.5 reb pg, 3:7 A/TO, 7 steals, 3 blocks, and +39 +/-
At a quick glance, Kobe just produced way more. But look at the efficiency of Ron, save for assists/turnovers. Kobe handled the ball far more than Ron, and thus he got more assists and more turnovers, but he also was given far more assist opportunities since people would double him. So as long as he found the open man, it was a good assist opportunity. While Ron, was left wide open to shoot jumpers a lot, and people sagged off, leaving him less assist opportunities. But the numbers that swing this argument even more in Ron’s favor, is when we look at his defensive assignment, Paul Pierce, and his numbers in those same games.
PP: 17.5 ppg, 40.7% FG, 40% 3pt FG, 5.5 FTA pg, 10:11 A/TO, -37 +/-
Pierce was Finals MVP in ’08, and the possibly the biggest reason why Boston won that series is that “the Truth” outplayed “the Mamba”. He got it going a little this series, most notably in game 5, but when LA won, it was because Artest put the clamps on Pierce. Meanwhile Kobe got to sag off of Rondo most of the time and try to jump passing lanes, block people from their weakside, and grab easy rebounds, thus inflating some of his defensive stats over Artest’s. Ron had to work his butt off on defense to stick with Pierce, while Kobe had to mainly concentrate on offense, and yet Ron was still more efficient offensively. I think the quintessential point of my argument, is that Kobe’s best offensive game of the series was his 38 point game 5 with that huge 3rd quarter, that ended up being fruitless in the win column. Ron played poorly in the Laker losses, but he rose to the occasion in their wins.
Now I realize that this is still a bit preposterous, but I thought it was fun to look at the numbers. Also, besides the improved D on Pierce, the other biggest turnaround from ’08 for LA was that Gasol won his matchup with KG this time around. I think that’s a really good argument for why Pau could have been Finals MVP. Basically, this is just more reasoning why Kobe is not a top ten player of all time. His biggest shots of the series seemed to come in LA losses, while Fisher took over in the 4th of game 3, and Gasol, Fisher, and Artest all came up bigger in the 4th of game 7 than Kobe did. If you want to go with the +/- stat, Lamar Odom was a whopping +43 for the 4 Laker wins. It’s just not fair that a guy that good could be coming off the bench for LA. You maybe could have dug in the stats to find where Jordan didn’t lead his team in +/- for some of his titles, but you could never find a series where Jordan was the 3rd or 4th most clutch guy on his team. Despite the Lakers winning this title and Kobe being just 1 away from MJ now, the argument for Jordan is only getting stronger. Respect the history of the game and actually look at the numbers, and you will find the truth.
Anyhow, these were my two least favorite teams in the league this year, but at least the slightly lesser of the two evils prevailed. I am very happy that Ron Ron got his ring, even if Kobe had to get his 5th. I’d like to thank my hood, and even more so, my psychiatrist, for allowing me to relax so I could write this blog post to the best of my ability. Queensbridge has left the building.