3 votes – Kobe Bryant. Despite the Lakers dominance of this series (and the fact they would sweep on Day 24), there have been some damn entertaining games. None more so than Game 3 which had one of the craziest finishes in recent playoff history. Odom, Kobe, Korver and Fisher all made huge threes over the final three minutes – Fisher’s being the most dramatic from way out with 28 seconds left. That put the Lakers up by 1, and after Matthews and Boozer both missed down the other end, Kobe stepped up to make two clutch free-throws with 7 seconds left, the Lakers up 3. The Lakers then fouled Deron who nailed two from the stripe, and then something peculiar happened. The Lakers blew the in-bounds pass (truth is Fisher was tackled to the ground to stop him catching it) and Korver ended up stealing the ball. Utah time out, 4 seconds left. Deron missed the shot and Matthews tip was painfully close, and the rest is history. It could so easily been LA 2-1 after this game, but twas not to be. Continuing his ominous form, Kobe scored 35 on 13-24 shooting, with 7 assists and 4 rebounds, and despite an over-insistence at shooting that almost cost his team the game (he missed 4-straight shots in the fourth), he delivered when it really mattered in the dying minutes.
2 votes – Dwight Howard. Hard to pick out Orlando players for votes the way they’ve been steamrolling teams in formation the last two weeks. But today Dwight gets the nod thanks to 21 points on only 8 field goal attempts (yeah, doesn’t make sense) and 16 rebounds. What was more fascinating to me on this day though was the post-game reaction from Joe Johnson. Some absolutely ripper quotes here from the Hawks supposed “leader”:
“Guys look to me for guidance. When I’m playing like that, it’s almost impossible for us to win.” – Joe telling his teammates they’re hopeless without him.
“That doesn’t bother me. I could care less if they showed up or not.” – Joe telling the fans to fuck off.
Talk about murdering your max-contract in one foul swoop! Seems like everything I said a few months ago about Joe being the reluctant Franchise Guy is absolutely true. Not only is he not talented enough to be that guy, he clearly doesn’t have the tact or class needed to be that guy.
1 vote – Ron Artest. This will be remembered as the game Artest snapped out of his epic three-point shooting funk. After shooting 7-42 from long range up till this point of the playoffs (17%), Artest shot 4-7 including a couple from the corner that Phil Jackson urged him not too take, on his way to a post-season high of 20 points. On a day when his defensive efforts were a bit lacking – Kyle Korver shot a ridiculous 9-10 from the field – Artest made up for it with his own offense. Just another reason why quietly, everything seems to be coming good for the Lakers at the right time.