Until midway through the second quarter, Game Five of the NBA Finals had all the makings of a classic. It started out with neither team giving up an inch to the other, as they both made every possession matter.
Then, the Los Angeles Lakers proceeded to win their 15th NBA Championship in a matter of five minutes and 53 seconds.
How did it happen?
With his team down 40-to-36 at the 5:53 mark in the second quarter, Game Three hero Derek Fisher hit a three to pull the Lakers within one.
Trevor Ariza and Hedo Turkoglu then both received double technicals following a Magic timeout.
After that, Ariza took over.
He came back after the timeout and nailed a three from the left wing, then added eight more points during their 20-6 run, which ultimately won the Lakers the game. During that stretch, the Lakers made eight straight field goals, and scored 16 unanswered points.
Everything was over but the crying, as the Lakers would finish off the Magic, 99-86.
Finally, the shadow that Shaq cast over Bryant since their split was gone for good.
Bryant filled up the stat sheets with 30 points, six rebounds, five assists, and four blocked shots averaged. Phil Jackson finally got his elusive 10th NBA Championship—his fourth with the Lakers after six with the Chicago Bulls, finally passing Red Auerbach of Celtics dynasty fame.
Even Shaq congratulated Bryant on Twitter by saying, "Congratulations Kobe, u deserve it. You played great . Enjoy it my man enjoy it."
The Laker role players stepped up throughout the Finals, as well.
Pau Gasol made sure that no one would put him and the word "soft" in the same sentence again, scoring 14 points and 15 rebounds in the clincher. Lamar Odom contributed a double double (17 points and 10 rebounds) off the bench, and veteran Derek Fisher ended with 13 points.
In the end, Orlando died with their three-point shooting, going 8-for-27.
The Magic didn't have enough left in the tank after a Game Four collapse that will be added to their history of playoff futility.
Dwight Howard, who ended the game with 11 points, was visibly frustrated by the Lakers' length throughout the series. Hedo Turkoglu scored 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting, and Rashard Lewis had 18 points from 6-for-19 shooting, but went 3-12 from three-point territory.
The Lakers came into the season with their Game Six loss in last year's Finals—when the Boston Celtics drubbed them by 39 points—in their minds. They played with the same passion that the Celtics had throughout the Finals, and Bryant's determination was evident through the five games.
It remains to be seen whether this team can stay together for another title run. Both Odom and Ariza are free agents in the summer, and it will be interesting to see who the Lakers will re-sign.
But at this moment, their front office is not thinking about that.
Now the Lakers should focus on celebrating of a historical kind.
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