The Boston Celtics put the wood to the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday night in a way that hasn't been seen in a championship-deciding game since USC demolished Oklahoma 55-19 in the Orange Bowl in January 2005.
From the very first Lakers possession -- hell, from Game 5, which the Lakers actually won despite terrible defense and passive offense -- it was clear the Lakers weren't going to be in this one. Needing to come out strong in the raucous Some Bank or Other Garden and establish that they wouldn't go down easy, the Lakers won the tip and, of course, launched a fade-away jump shot.
The shot, by Kobe Bryant, went in, but it was the same old non-aggressive approach, hardly a shot across the bow. On the Celtics' first possession, Boston got two offensive rebounds, the second really a steal by Rajon Rondo on Pau Gasol, who pulled down Kendrick Perkins' miss and held it like a precious egg. Rondo ripped the ball out of his hands. It rolled to Ray Allen, who missed a 3-pointer.
The Lakers made it 4-0 on their next possession on a pair of Derek Fisher free throws, but the tone had been set. The Lakers looked like a glass-jawed opponent brought in to fight the champ in a tuneup bout. Ever seen that? The guy looks nice and professional for a little while, right up until the first solid blow lands. Then he gets taken apart.
The game stayed close for a quarter and a half, and then the Celtics landed the first solid blow. Leading by three, Boston got back-to-back threes from James Posey and Eddie House for a nine-point lead. A minute later another three by Posey made it a 14-point cushion. Kevin Garnett played like a man possessed as the Celtics closed out the half with a 26-6 run. It was 58-35 at halftime.
The Lakers scored one basket in the last 7:50. Coach Phil Jackson kept calling timeouts, but there were no answers in the huddle. The Lakers failed to pull down a single offensive rebound in the first half. That about says it all.
The second half was a formality, a long celebration. The Celtics beat the Lakers every way a team can be beaten. Toward the end the lead got to 43 points. It ended at 39, 131-92. The Chicago Bulls beat the Utah Jazz by 42 points in an NBA Finals game 10 years ago, but that was a Game 3. This was a clincher.
This Celtics team -- doubted during the season by this column as a team too reliant on a Big Three all on the wrong side of 30 -- proved itself worthy of its famous Boston predecessors, following Garnett's intense lead on the defensive end and riding Allen and series MVP Paul Pierce offensively. Rondo, Perkins and Posey led a crew of solid role players.
We'll never know how much of Boston's dominance in the Finals was a product of its brilliance and how much was attributable to the Lakers' massive, suddenly exposed shortcomings, especially among the two-thirds of L.A.'s Big Three who aren't named Kobe Bryant: Gasol and Lamar Odom.
But all a team can do is beat the team that lines up against it, and when the Lakers lined up before Game 1, they looked like a more than worthy adversary, having come through the tougher Western Conference with less trouble than the Celtics had had in the East.
They turned out not to be so worthy, for reasons that will no doubt be debated at some length over the offseason in Southern California, with many unkind words said about Gasol and Odom and even Bryant, who played well, though not well enough to carry his team.
The answer least likely to be agreed upon is the one most likely to be true: The Celtics showed the Lakers how it's done.