Friday, June 13, 2008

Win it for Red

I don't blog much at all about the Celtics, and I'm really due for a Red Sox post.

However, last night's comeback was just so inspiring and historic, it can't pass unheralded. We've all seen blowouts and comebacks before, but this one was pretty special and speaks volumes about what can happen and how quickly things can happen when momentum shifts sides.

Everything was going LA's way early on - they seemed to score on every possession, everyone was hitting shots, the bounces and rebounds were going their way, they were getting to the free throw line a lot. And that pesky peanut - Farmer - hits a 3 from a ridiculous distance at the first half buzzer. C'mon. When guys like that are scoring, it just couldn't get any worse. Turns out that was the only time he scored all game. Hah!

Totally the opposite for the Celtics early on. They were getting plenty of chances and open shots, but nothing was going in. And incredibly, this takedown was unfolding without a single basket from Kobe. Had to wonder how out of control this would have been if he was actually scoring? Turns out that was the key to their success - he decided to trust his teammates and spread the ball around. Luckily for him, it worked, at least in the first half.

If you saw the game, you know what happened after that, and no need to deconsruct it. The result is all that matters, and to do it without two starters - Rondo and Perkins - tells the story. The Big Three did their job, the bench came through, their team defence shut the Lakers down, and Doc Rivers made great adjustments and reminded his players to be themselves and just play the game.

Momentum is so important in sports and the difference in this series is about when it happens. The Celtics were having their blowout in Game 2, and the Lakers were pretty much left for dead. And I'm pretty sure the peak margin was the same as last night - 24 points. You just don't blow a 24 point lead and lose, especially in the Finals. Well, the Celtics almost did, but they tightened up and hung on.

I didn't give up on the Celtics last night because they got buried early, not late. In Game 2, the Lakers were behind early, but they stayed deep in the hole until late in the game. They made a great comeback too, but it was fast and too late. If the game had gone on another 5 minutes, they probably would have won.

Last night was different. I'd much rather be down 24 in the first quarter than the fourth. It was great for the Laker fans to see some carnage, but it happened early. You knew they would go cold sooner or later, and eventually the Celtics started clicking at both ends, and had lots of time to make up the difference. And once they had the momentum, they kept it. After taking the lead for the first time in the game, they pretty much kept it. Very sweet.

I'm pretty confident now they'll win it on Sunday, and have to think this one will be for Red Auerbach. It would be their first title since his passing, and only fitting for the Celtics to deny Action Jackson his 10th ring to break the tie with Red among coaches.

Let's not light up the cigar just yet - still got one more game to win, but the storyline is looking a lot more certain now than 12 hours ago. I've never understood why the Lakers were so favored in the first place. Sure, they made it look easy knocking off the Spurs, etc. Don't forget, the Celtics did beat them twice during the regular season. However, the Celtics won three tough series to get to the Finals, and these were more physical teams than the Lakers. When push comes to shove, I don't think the Lakers can play as tough as these teams, and if you ask me, Lebron James was a tougher one-man band to beat than Kobe and his cast. Thoughts?

You gotta believe. Go Green and Go Red!

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