3 votes – Hedo Turkoglu. Before the season started I wrote this about Turkoglu: “I’ll be interested to see if Hedo can continue to be The Man – the amount of big games and game-winning shots he hit last year was ridiculous. Was last year a fluke for Hedo? Time will tell.” Well I think time has spoken – it was not a fluke. After hitting the dagger three with a minute left in Game 6 and turning in a 25 point-12 assist performance in Game 7, we can safely say Hedo Turkoglu is still The Man. I have to be honest, I gave Orlando ZERO chance of winning this game. I just couldn’t envisage a scenario in my mind where the Celtics didn’t conjure up some magical Game 7 performance – perhaps defining some new hero in House, Davis or Marbury, or relying on the old brigade of Pierce and Allen to yet again drag them through the mud. But it didn’t happen, and watching it on League Pass this morning, I have to say it felt plain weird. Every other Game 7 I’ve seen Boston close out at home the past year (and indeed, the last 20 years) has let me to believe some strange spiritual presence exerts its influence upon the game to favour the men in green. They played damn well each time, no doubt, but there was something else about each game that transcended the hardwood. Maybe it’s just the frenzied Garden crowd that hypnotizes me, or maybe it’s that I’m all too aware of the Celtics historic penchant for timely heroics. Maybe they did run out of gas like Doc Rivers alluded to, but since when did gas matter in a Game 7 in Boston when you’re the Celtics?
2 votes – Pau Gasol. I don’t know what stopped him playing like this in Game 6. Same goes for Andrew Bynum. You know when you watch high school video of a future protege like KG or Kobe and they’re eight inches taller than anyone else and making them look like toddlers? That’s what its looked like since Yao Ming went down in this series, yet for some reason the Lakers lost twice, and blew them out twice. Glad Kobe has a sense of humour in admitting his team is bi-polar, but the fact is it’s a serious issue that will probably cost LA the title. When they’re playing their best and Bynum and Gasol are active, the Lakers are unbeatable – I truly believe that. Those two are even more important than Kobe because ultimately you know Kobe is always going to perform – whether as the offensive artist or the good Samaritan – but Gasol and Bynum tend to drift in and out of basketball comas. Bynum has obviously been a lot more ordinary than Pau these playoffs, but even when Gasol has a “tidy” 14 and 10 on 50% shooting I still happily point the finger at him. Gasol’s stats are deceiving and meaningless – it’s when he’s angry and more caveman-like that his numbers actually contribute to wins. He’s about to be mega-tested, because K-Mart, Birdman and Nene are all considerably angry men, especially Nene who actually lives with Gorillas during the off season. The Lakers only survive round three if the Caveman gets angrier than ever.
1 vote – Dwight Howard. I’m sometimes a critic of Dwight Howard, only because I’ve been searching for the player that hides behind that rebound-inhaling dunk-monster facade. At times I’ve criticised the inner Dwight for being soft, for failing as a leader, for not learning how to win. I think part of that comes from watching big men like Patrick Ewing and David Robinson dominate the game in every facet except the most important – winning. I don’t want Dwight to go down that road, because he has the potential to be better than both those guys. And I think I’m starting to see that potential in the inner Dwight. Part of me loved seeing Dwight bad-mouth his coach after Game 5 – that is just the display of fire I’ve been waiting for from a guy who usually carries the demeanor of a comic book. Dwight learnt a hell of a lot from that outburst and his ensuing performance in Game 6, and I think it’s a lesson he and Orlando needed to endure to finally succeed in a game like this. This is a game the Magic would have lost last year, without doubt. Now they have an sharper edge, a bit more of a veteran feel, a talent that can expose itself as beyond superficial and instill legitimate fear into opponents. That starts and ends with none other than Dwight Howard.
Day 27 – The Day the Lakers somehow lost again
3 votes – Dwight Howard. Large, lots of rebounds, points.
2 votes – Aaron Brooks. Small, penetrating, half Derek Fisher’s age.
1 vote – Luis Scola. Medium-sized, European, lesser caveman with beautiful hair