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Of course, the MVP doesn't have to come from the winning team. While this isn't the letter of the law, it's been an unwritten rule for the past four decades -- every Finals MVP since 1969 has come from the winning team. Alas, every rule has its exception, and after Sunday night's 38-point effort we may be looking at one in the form of Kobe Bryant.
While the Celtics deserve their 3-2 lead in the series, there's no question who the best player has been over these first five games. That point was driven home with a sledgehammer in Game 5 when Bryant scored 19 points in the third quarter only to find the Celtics' lead had increased when he was done.
This continued a Finals in which Bryant has had at least 20 points in every game, has had only one game that possibly could be construed as somewhere close to ordinary (Game 2), and has had a pair (Games 1 and 5) in which he was absolutely spectacular.
For the series, Bryant is averaging 30.2 points per game; no other player is averaging more than 19. He's done it reasonably efficiently too, with a 55.2 true shooting percentage in a series in which the average has been 53.4. That's amazing considering the difficulty of the attempts he's taken, especially in Game 5.
If you're not sold on Bryant's MVP case yet, then consider the alternative. If not Kobe, who?
Rajon Rondo, who has yet to have a 20-point game and is 4-for-15 from the free throw line in the series? Ray Allen, who made a record eight 3-pointers in Game 2 but is 0-for-18 from distance in the other four games? Paul Pierce, who didn't become a factor in the series until Game 4? Kevin Garnett, who had only six points in Game 2 and has played only 30.8 minutes a game for the series?
The fact is Bryant has been by far the most productive player, and the only reason the Celtics are ahead is because five of the next six best players (the four above and supersub Glen Davis) have been wearing green. If series MVP voters are using their heads and not their hearts, Bryant is an obvious pick even with his team trailing.
There's an irony here, of course. I mentioned above that only one player has won Finals MVP in a losing effort; it was Bryant's idol and mentor, former Lakers star Jerry West. Wait, there's more. It came in the 1969 Finals … against the Celtics … against a veteran Boston team, in fact, that had won only 48 games and was seeded just fourth in the Eastern Conference at the start of the playoffs. L.A. ended up losing Game 7 at home despite 42 points, 13 rebounds and 12 assists from West.