Bryant, LA Lakers get Finals Ticket
The defending champion San Antonio Spurs are no more. The Spurs have a ticket to San Antonio but the LA Lakers won in 5 games and have a Finals Ticket to Boston or a Finals Ticket for Detroit, whoever wins that Eastern Conference Finals matchup.
Another disappointing effort from the Spurs, yet Game 5 showed how close the Spurs were to taking a few of these games and making it a different series. The SA Spurs had a 17 point lead in the first half, not the first time they lost a huge lead to the Lakers this series. Some of the role players for LA made timely shots like Farmar and Odom, but the MVP led the way in this game.
NBA MVP Kobe Bryant had 39 points on 16 / 30 shooting, doing it the hard way with only 5 points from free throws. Kobe's closing ability in the 4th quarter was the difference as he never let the Spurs get ahead. Bruce Bowen can get up in his grill, but Kobe has the athletic ability to get separation to create a shot and has the vertical and finesse to finish.
It was a heroic effort from Tim Duncan who has been laying it all on the line for the Spurs, but just has not received enough help. Duncan managed 19 points 15 rebounds 10 assists but on only 7 / 19 shooting. The length of Gasol and Odom bothered Duncan's ability to finish inside, despite the fact that he could out-muscle them at will.
Another game where Manu Ginobili just did not show up. It is no surprise that the one game Manu went off with 30 points, the Spurs win. Because that's how it went through the previous Spurs Finals runs. Whether it is that ankle injury, or whether Ginobili just did not shoot / finish like he has in the past, the Spurs have to be nervous heading into the future.
Sure Duncan will age well as a big, and Parker is still reliable. But the Spurs need scoring options badly with Manu looking inconsistent at best, and is probably suited to a role where the team is less reliant on him to be successful (maybe as a true bench player). The Spurs though do not have a lot of flexibility to make changes until 2010, but a lot of high profile free agents will be available then including LeBron James.
San Antonio Spurs fans and haters alike, be sure to remember that besides the Lakers title run, the Spurs have won every odd year title since 1999.