Friday, May 30, 2008

Lakers-Spurs, Game Five: The Mamba Will Kill You Now

Closing time in Los Angeles tonight, as the Lakers shook off a sluggish start and rode Kobe Bryant's 39 points (26 in the second half) for the kill shot. The Lakers go back to the Finals for the first time since Shaq, with a 100-92 win.

The Spurs blew two of the biggest leads in the playoffs in this series -- a 20 point lead in Game 1, a 17 point one tonight -- and there's a very good reason why: they are old, old, old, and even older than that, since they've got all of those playoff road miles on the tires as well. You can also talk here, if you must, about how the Spurs lost this series in Game 1, the same way the Suns lost their series in Game 1.

In the first half, the Spurs built their big lead on three point shooting, but that dried up with a vengeance in the second half, and the Laker bench cut the big lead down before the half. For the Spurs, Tim Duncan did everything he could to carry them up the mountain, but the simple fact of this series is that Manu Ginobili only played well in one game, and that was the only one they won.

If you're looking for a better Finals, root for the Celtics to finish things off in Detroit in Game 6, but it should not matter either way, simply because Bryant is just on another level right now. Tonight, he scored huge hoops over Duncan when they needed them, and he just seems to be playing at a different conditioning level than everyone else when the chips are down.

The Spurs still have Parker and Duncan, and maybe Manu gets back with rest and health. But they were always working harder to get the same results in this series, and it's hard to see how they're going to get better. They'll have cash to throw around, assuming they bow to reality and avoid some of the older vets on their roster, but there's suddenly a lot of holes here, and Duncan's not getting any younger or better. They are just one big injury away from missing the playoffs entirely next year. They just lost in five in a series where Bruce Bowen played his best ball in years; he's not getting younger either.

For the Lakers, it's just been lightning in a bottle, with the Gasol deal just the security blanket that made everything else fit. If the Finals turn out to be Lakers-Celtics, it will be a simple sign of what it takes to win -- taking another franchise in a ludicrous trade, so that you have two franchises worth of talent boiled down to one team. Nice work if you can get it.

And for the final note, tonight was the last TNT game of the year. How will I live without the obese laughter lampreys of Tyler Payne, Bill Engvald's milk-fed whore daughter, the never-funny shtick of The Closer, and the 15 years past her prime of sassy Holly Hunter? Oh, right. Easily and with great relief...

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