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Color me surprised: Kobe Bryant and the Lakers fall apart in a deciding playoff game.

It shouldn’t be the big story coming out of these NBA Finals, but the Lakers early collapse is going to dominate the basketball headlines.

It shouldn’t. Kevin Garnett forever shedding the label of choker should. Ray Allen shooting the lights out should. Paul Peirce finally taking his place along the Celtic greats should. Even Sam Cassell, the man who threw down Pau Gasol, should have his headlines. Those should be what Around The Horn talks about, what the columnists write about, what talk radio should be saying.

One only can hope that’s what they do.

“TOP OF THE WORLD, TOP OF THE WORLD!” – Kevin Garnett, screaming on ABC after game six

It’s been 21 years since the Celtics last won an NBA title. Since then Magic hit a hoot shot over McHale, Lenny Bias and Reggie Lewis have died and the Lakers have won four titles. They’ve posted amazing comebacks, they’ve fallen to the bottom of the NBA and now, after a dominating game six, and they’re at the top of the NBA.

Led by the second big three, the Celtics dominated all throughout the second half and won by with a commanding 131-92 final score. Finals MVP Paul Pierce posted a double-double, scoring 17 and dishing out 10 helpers. KG scored 26, shooting 10 for 18, and grabbed 14 rebounds, three of them offensive: that’s more then the Lakers did as a team. Ray Allen was 8-12, including 7-9 from beyond the arc, and also had 26.

The Celtics dominated. But they got more then their share of help; the Lakers stunk out the joint. Kobe vanished for large chunks of the game, while Gasol and Odom were non-factors. If anything, Odom will be best remembered for his swipe at Allen’s face halfway through the first quarter.

Still, give credit where it’s due. The Celtics dominated, and everybody – 11 players – scored in this final game. They out-rebounded, out assisted and outplayed the Lakers. Los Angeles turned it over 19 times, with 29 Celtic points coming off it.

Don’t let the box score fool you. This game was never close in the final 24 minutes; the outcome was never in doubt. This was game seven of the 2006 quarterfinals all over again for the Lakers. They got beaten, blown out by the better team, and Kobe Bryant barely showed up.

“The reason I play basketball is to win a championship.” - Paul Pierce

In a very remarkable finals, he was the most visible of all. He went down hard in game one, left in a wheelchair. Then he came back and helped to lead his team to victory. He was there, again leading, when the Celtics posted one of the greatest comebacks in the history of professional sports in game four.

And he was here again, performing like a MVP on the NBA’s biggest stage, outplaying the league’s MVP.

There have been seasons where the Finals MVP went to a player that didn’t deserve it, and there have been ones where it obviously went to the right man.

This was one of those nights. No man on the floor, not even Garnett, deserved that award as much as Pierce did.