Oh shit! Talk about your writer's block. I'm having trouble sufficiently capturing my feelings about this year's NBA Finals. I'd like to spare you the hyperbole, but as I said in my postseason preview, Celtics v Lakers in the NBA Finals is either my ultimate basketball dream or worst basketball nightmare, depending on the outcome. You could easily extrapolate from basketball to sports there, given their history in my formative years. (The Yankees Red Sox rivalry is probably bigger, but the Celtics Lakers may carry more emotional baggage for me personally because of those formative sports years (Yankees sucked in those days)) The Celtics losing to the Lakers in the 80s was devastating to me. And beating them in 84 was sheer joy to an 11 year old VTK. That is, until Papa VTK, warmed by a handful of Sunday afternoon beers, decided that he was going to stop his series long support of the Lakers and to start rooting for the Celtics once the outcome was assured in the C's favor, robbing me of some hard earned gloating and sending my emotionally erratic 11 year old brain out to the back yards to shoot hoops in a teary rage (I remind him of that every chance I get). And when the Lakers lost to the Rockets in 86, leaving me to celebrate a Finals win over the wrong team, my joy was hedged slightly by the feeling that I'd been robbed of a Finals win over the Lakers (because we unquestionably would have beaten them in 86). Then when the two teams met in 87, I was once again denied my Celtics-over-Lakers victory by Magic's mini-skyhook and Bird's shocking miss. I've been watching replays of the best of the 80's Finals games between the two dynasties on ESPN Classic all week and I'm in a tizzy, a frenzy, a state of panic, a state of elation over tonight's tip. If you think I'm exaggerating, believe me when I tell you that I know the outcome of all these games that took place over twenty years ago and I still find myself pumping my fist when Bird hits a turnaround jumper and calling Kareem a baby every time he whines over a call. Good stuff.
So, twenty one years after that last appearance in the Finals, the Celtics finally get back to the championship series and find themselves pitted against their old rivals, the Lakers, who are playing tremendous basketball right now. The midseason heist of Gasol has given them a dangerous front court to triangulate with in-prime Kobe; some have called them the best passing team since the early 70's Knicks. After the Celtics were taken to the limit by the 37 win Hawks and the Cavs, and taken to 6 by the Pistons, almost all the experts are picking the Lakers, despite them not having home court advantage. But I'm not despairing (worried yes, despairing no). Going seven against the Cavs gave the C's plenty of experience in winning against a dominant player on par with Kobe. Yes, the Lakers have a better supporting cast, but I still think those extra games against LeBron are going to prove valuable. But more importantly, I think winning two games in Detroit is going to do wonders for their confidence, which has gone missing at times in this postseason. That road jinx stuff is totally buried, as is Ray Allen's shooting slump. They're great at home (10 of 11) and now they have confidence that they can win on the road. Plus, they beat the Lakers in both of their meetings so far this year. Granted, that was pre-Gasol, but Bynum was playing and playing well back then, so the Lakers were no slouches. If they lose the first two at home, they're in trouble, but if they lose one, they're not. They can win one at the Forum.
Time for a prediction? You'll recall that I predicted this Final and copped out on picking a winner in my playoffs preview. Considering that I went 13 for 14 in my series predictions, I'm now wishing that I had picked the Celtics. But I'm just as trepidatious now as I was then. I'm not touching it. I will say that I think it's going 6 or 7. I just don't know whether it's going to be a dream or a nightmare. Go C's!!
Win # 17 for Red, boys. Don't let that Zen Doofus tie him on our watch. BEAT LA!