While Kobe Bryant did everything in his power to send Los Angeles back to the west coast with a victory in hand, he received as much help from his teammates as New Orleans got from FEMA in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Thus far, the 2010 Finals has been ripe with ancillary storylines – the rugged toughness, exemplified by Ron Artest, exhibited by L.A. in Game 1, Rondo’s triple-double masterpiece coupled with Sugar Ray Allen’s sweet stroke in Game 2, Derek Fisher’s late-game heroics in Game 3 and and the Celtics Killer B’s (Big Baby and the bench) making all the difference in Game 4.
But last night, it was all about the Return of the Macks, as Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rondo re-established their top billing in Boston’s 92-86 Game 5 victory.
Pierce finally seemed to solve the excruciating puzzle that is Ron Artest’s defense en route to his magnificent 27 points. He made one big shot after another while Garnett re-incarnated himself as “Da Kid”. KG’s 18 points and 10 boards, along with Rondo’s 18 points, eight assists and five boards, assisted Boston in becoming the first team to win consecutive games in this hard fought series.
Yet, despite the brilliant performances of their marquee players, they needed every ounce of their collective efforts to overcome a determined Kobe Bryant. Kobe exploded for 23 straight points during the second and third quarters en route to his game high 38, singlehandedly keeping the Lakers in contention. But Pierce seemed to have an answer at every crucial juncture, when it seemed that Kobe’s sheer will, determination and offensive genuis alone could salvage the Lakers’ hopes.
P-Double’s teammates had his back while he led the charge. Rasheed Wallace made some big buckets and grabbed some tough boards, Nate Robinson kept the defense honest with his passing, blow-by capabilities and scoring in limited minutes, Tony Allen pinned Pau Gasol’s shot attempt to the board with a Floyd Mayweather-esque two hand combination while Big Baby threw his weight around for some tough rebounds.
Ray Allen made sure that every one of Kobe’s buckets was contested, making him earn every one, while Rondo and KG played All-Star ball. Rondo’s improvisational forays to the bucket, converting some illmatic lay-ins with the ridiculous playground english off the board, made many observers involuntarily spring out of their seats. And Pierce found himself within the comforting confines of an offensive rhythm that even Artest, a defensive savant, had no answers for.
Kobe, on the other hand, showed up ready to rumble, only to find his supporting cast armed with plastic spoons. We’ve been taught, throughout this drama of the 2010 Finals, that he needs some other folks to step up. When he needed someone to grab some crucial boards, secure some key defensive stops or hit some momentum changing buckets, Kobe looked like a common panhandler, begging, pleading for some assistance.
After the game, he issued an A.P.B. for Pau, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, Derek Fisher and the remainder of his supporting cast. Because back in L.A., if he’s forced to perform a one-man play again, no matter how transcendent his performance may be, Paul Pierce and the rest of Boston’s Macks will be popping champagne at his expense.
Kobe can’t do it alone. The question that’s left to be answered is, if he’s going to get it done, if he’s going to equal Magic with five rings, if he’s going to add to his legendary resume, if he’s going to ascend to another rung in NBA lore, who is going to step up and help him?
If no one does, he’ll have to ask Nate Robinson for permission to cry through the words of this Donkey classic –
“I’m all alone. There’s no one here beside me…”