Despite the hype surrounding the Los Angeles Clippers since acquiring Chris Paul during the pre-season, they were really not the favorites coming into the opening of the 2012 season. Not even the two pre-season victories they had over their co-tenant Los Angeles Lakers were enough to dismiss the notion of cynicism against them. And that’s just normal, since the true test of their mettle comes when they finally face the giants on the court during the season.
After 9 games, they’re finally living up to the hype.
Just now the Clippers earned a 102-94 win over their co-tenants in Staples Center, with Chris Paul dropping 33 points on a 12-for-22 shooting, with three of them coming from the long distance area. Kobe Bryant scored for 42 points, the fourth night he’s been scoring 40+ points, but even that wasn’t enough to overtake the Clippers, who are now 6-3, goog enough for third in the standings, while the Lakers snap their five-game winning streak, earning a 9-5 win-loss card which puts them at 5th spot.
The other night, the Clippers beat the Miami Heat in overtime, 95-89, behind the performance of Paul’s 27 points, along with Blake Griffin and Chauncey Billups, who each scored 20. Their win over the defending Eastern Conference champions was the first true test of the Clippers’ credentials on paper. And then this, a win over the team that has made them for many years “the other LA team.” At least, for the time being, they’re showing the basketball world that they’re not just any other team that should be sidelined and dismissed.
Nonetheless, they still have a long way to go. This is just the Clippers’ second win over a top-contending win in any given conference. Their three previous losses have come from the hands of the Portland Trailblazers (105-97), Chicago Bulls (114-101), and their biggest loss so far, to the San Antonio Spurs (115-90), teams that are standing atop the list.
But one thing’s for sure: the Clippers are slowly finding their way up the ladder, among the great contenders of the West.
And, in the heart of their fans as well.
Phil Jackson’s side of history is that he has never lost a series where he won game one. Boston’s side of history is that they have never been beaten by the Lakers in a game seven of a finals series.
After 48 tight minutes, history favored Phil Jackson.
In what will go down as one of basketball’s most epic match-ups, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers emerged as the rightful winners of the 2010 NBA Finals, triumphing over their greatest rivals, the Boston Celtics, 79-83.
This win puts the Lakers one championship banner behind their vanquished foes with 16, while Boston is still on top with 17. But more than what it means to the team is a whole, this victory becomes personal when the perspective is shifted to the individuals that comprise the club.
For this special occasion, Ron Artest deserves to be put up on stage first.
In his years as an NBA player, he has not only failed miserably in winning a championship, but he has been looked down as a brawling baller whose only shot to fame was mugging a viewer at the Palace of Auburn Hills a couple of years ago. Before and after his trade to LA in exchange for Trevor Ariza, Artest was never taken seriously, especially that he was struggling to make his niche in LA, while Ariza had quickly rose from the ranks to becoming the top go-to guy for the Rockets. Entering the playoffs, he had flashes of greatness, but none were significant to make his name ring.
Tonight, with 20 points and five crucial steals in the game, Artest has earned for himself respect, appreciation, and of course his first NBA Championship.
Going back to Phil Jackson, LA’s coach now sports a new record of 48-0 in every series that they took the first game. While this was the first time for him to play in a game seven of the finals, Jackson never showed any shift in calm or composure. He sat, stood up, conducted, and drafted the Lakers’ play in the same stealthy but stern fashion that he has been known for. Today with 11 rings as a coach, and twelve all in all, with one courtesy of his stint with the Knicks, he now has more championship rings than any living soul. Last year, he surpassed Red Auerbach with his tenth ring. Today, he surpassed Bill Russell’s 11 rings as a Boston Celtic.
With plenty of time still left for him to draw the course of his future, Phil will surely take this one victory into serious consideration.
And together with Jackson thinking about what’s next is big time veteran Derek Fisher.
Fish predicted that there will be one particular moment in this game seven when he will be given the leather for him to decide how to put it up. That moment came not only in one, but in two occasions. And on both, he delivered. For Fish, he never asked for ten touches on the ball for him to strike from behind the line. He just gave his utmost commitment that at that moment he will be asked to throw up that ball into the air, he will make sure it will count and matter. And it did… twice.
Pau Gasol’s performance tonight was another additional proof of his new found domination under the ring. With 18 rebounds and 19 points for his team, the Big Spaniard helped power his team by having more control of the ball, as well as having more chances of hitting a shot.
And as for Kobe Bryant, well, he’s now got one of his palms all wearing a championship ring. This fifth title, more than just an added jewel in his hot hands, is the culmination of a two-year journey that started with a humiliating loss at the hands of the Boston Celtics themselves two seasons ago. Coming into the series with less than 40% average in his field goals, Kobe proved that he can help lift his team to a back-to-back title without the blazing barrels of his offense. As the final buzzer of the season sounded at the Staples Center, everyone, fans and critics, all saw what kind of leadership a player like Kobe Bryant can bring.
As for the Boston Celtics, they walk away from this series as a worthy opponent, one that brought out the best in their foe, and who gave us all an exciting series that will be one for the ages. In fact, they owned the first 36 minutes of the game, and coming into the final frame, they were still enjoying the lead until after four minutes of the quarter. What happened, however, in the next 8 minutes was a reversal of fortunes. Boston lost their grip on the game, allowed their lead to slip away from them, and at the final eleven seconds of the game, they were trailing by two possessions to LA. That lead was in fact more than enough for LA to seal the deal and win all the marbles.
If there is anything as praiseworthy as the Los Angeles Lakers, it is definitely the series as a whole. Every NBA fan was given a special treat when the two most storied franchises in history met and faced off for the 13th time in their rivalry. And as if couldn’t get any better, they pushed the series to the edge. The game was as tight as it could get, and it was not until the final eleven ticks of the clock that there was a clear winner. We were all pushed to the edges of whatever is left of our seats. After the game, I never heard any Laker fan scorn the defeated Celtics (except for one young student from UE… shame on you… =)). I never saw a follower of Boston sigh in disbelief with their loss. But from one avid Laker fan I received his appreciation for the competition that Boston helped happen. From a pro-Boston, I received a text saying how deserving the winning team was.
Among so many things that this series proved, one thing is for sure: the better team won.
The Los Angeles Lakers: the 2010 NBA Back-to-Back Champions!