Lakers Dominate Game 5 To Win NBA Championship

June 15, 2009

Vindication. Sweet vindication.

One year after leaving the Finals defeated and without rings, the Los Angeles Lakers reclaimed their status as the NBA's premiere franchise by defeating the Orlando Magic in Game 5, 99-86, to win the 2009 NBA championship 4 games to 1.

The Game 5 blowout victory provided a series of milestone achievements for the Lakers, as they nabbed their fifteenth overall title, coach Phil Jackson won his record-setting tenth championship, and Kobe Bryant earned his first Finals MVP award.

Perhaps the only down note for the Lakers and their fans was that the win did not come against their hated rivals from Boston.

Bryant led the way once again for Los Angeles, pacing the Lakers with 30 points on 10-23 shooting from the field. He also added 5 assists and 4 blocks for good measure.

Pau Gasol had another fine performance as well, chipping in with 14 points and 15 rebounds. Lamar Odom and Trevor Ariza also added 17 and 15 points respectively. Los Angeles outrebounded the Magic, 47-36.

Meanwhile, Orlando was led by Rashard Lewis' 18 points and 10 boards.

But the numbers alone fail to tell the whole story of this game or of this season.

For Los Angeles, this title was won because of a new attitude and determination that developed within this year's team. That attitude was borne from the trial-by-fire failure suffered in last season's playoffs -- a blow which forced Los Angeles to become a mentally tougher team. Instrumental in nurturing that toughness was Kobe Bryant, as Bryant took a more proactive vocal leadership role with his teammates than in prior years.

Bryant's leadership was once again on full display in Game 5.

In the first quarter, Bryant kept his team in the game after Orlando got off to a solid 19-10 start, as Kobe responded to that run with a J, a three, and a nice pick-and-roll dish to Bynum for a dunk that narrowed the margin to 21-17.

Bryant would end the quarter with 11 points on 3-6 shooting, and the Lakers trailing 28-26.

In the pivotal second quarter, Dwight Howard valiantly responded to the Laker charge with three consecutive buckets in the paint to boost the Magic lead to 34-28. Still, the Lakers were undeterred, coming back with a beautiful Odom reverse layup, and a thunderous driving Bryant dunk off of a left wing iso.

However, the key play of the game might have occurred during a dead-ball time out, when Trevor Ariza and Hedo Turkoglu appeared to have a heated exchange of words. The argument apparently energized Ariza, as he lit Orlando up for 2 three-pointers, 2 steals, and 11 second-quarter points. As a result, the Lakers finished the quarter on a 20-6 run to lead 56-46 at the half.

In the third quarter, Orlando rallied behind a Rafer Alston three that narrowed the Laker lead to 5 points, at 58-53. However, Lamar Odom nailed two clutch back-to-back threes of his own, and Bryant made a beautiful hanging bank shot in the paint, extending the lead back to double digits at 66-55.

When Pau Gasol drew Dwight Howard's fifth foul with 1:14 left in the quarter and the Lakers up 73-58, Los Angeles was well on its way to a comfortable title-clinching victory on the road.

Despite six Orlando treys in the fourth quarter, LA was never truly threatened late, as the final 12 minutes consisted of an extended garbage-time celebration.

Overall, the Lakers simply outclassed a young Magic team still in the process of learning to become a championship-caliber squad.

When the final buzzer sounded, Bryant fittingly embraced Derek Fisher, his most trusted teammate. Both men entered the league in the same year as Laker first round draft picks, and thus, had endured the same highs and lows over the years. From playoff ousters under the tenure of Del Harris, to the 3 titles with Shaquille O'Neal, to the tough loss at the hands of the Celtics, Fisher and Bryant enjoy a bond that can only come via the journey of numerous seasons together.

Now they can share one more experience, as they have finally climbed back atop the NBA mountain.

Final Thoughts On Jackson Getting His Just Due

Phil Jackson might not even be the best coach in Laker history when compared with Pat Riley, but at a minimum, he certainly silenced all those delusional critics who had previously claimed that he had merely skated by with superior players.

This year Jackson challenged his players to improve and accept new roles. He never once attempted to use the Odom-Gasol-Bynum frontline that so many experts had predicted prior to the season, and instead chose to bring Odom off the bench as a sixth man. More importantly, he successfully convinced Odom, a starter, to accept that role, and in retrospect, the move was the correct decision.

Jackson also convinced Kobe Bryant, the game's most driven, workaholic player, that less would equal more. With Bryant coming off an extended summer with the U.S. National Team, Jackson knew that a lesser load would not only preserve Bryant's body over the season, but also would improve the confidence of his teammates. Jackson's decision might have cost Bryant the MVP award, but ended up giving him something much more significant -- another ring.

Finally, Jackson improved his own coaching performance from last year by improving his in-game use of his rotation.

Jackson repeatedly gave a useless Sasha Vujacic the quick hook that he deserved, rather than providing him with any charitable PT for his bricks. He seamlessly worked mid-season pickup Shannon Brown into a part-time backup point guard role without simultaneously killing Jordan Farmar's confidence. More importantly, at a time when the media was begging him to bench Fisher two series ago, Jackson stuck with the clutch veteran, and Fisher rewarded his trust with two big treys in a critical Game 4 win. Jackson also helped transform the raw Ariza into a consistent, empowered performer.

Although Jackson's team this year was the league's deepest and most talented, it was not as talented as his star-filled Rice-Shaq-Kobe squads of past years. Nor was it as playoff-ready. In other words, Jackson had to teach this team to become a championship-caliber squad.

Indeed, Jackson's tenth ring puts him in an elite class with a handful of other coaches, all of whom have won less titles than Jackson. One such man was Red Auerbach, the arrogant Beantown coach who was most threatened by Jackson and frequently liked to zing him in the press. Auerbach, ironically, never endured the same double-standard criticism for winning with his own superior rosters in Boston.

Jackson's legacy already should have been secure before this series, as he has consistently elevated his teams into champions, even at the CBA-level with the Albany Patroons. His latest championship only confirms his greatness, and finally should get all of his critics, whatever their motive, off of his back.

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for

1 comment:

  1. This is a great article. I don't know if I agree with Pat Riley being a better coach than Phil Jackson, but it's an opinion I can certainly respect.


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