Monday, June 16, 2008

Should've Bet the House - Celts Crush Lakers to Win NBA Championship

June 18 Update - 131-92! In a history-making blowout before their hometown fans, the Boston Celtics won both Game Six and the 2008 NBA Championship with a 4-2 final series triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers. Their seventeenth NBA championship overall, but first since 1986, caps an unbelievable turnaround from a 24-win season in 2007. Enough said.

June 17 - First an apology for being so late to this subject. Last year I blogged almost the entire NBA playoffs, which culminated in the desultory Finals sweep of the Cavaliers by the Spurs. The 2008 playoff season has been more exciting, particularly due to the appearance of my home-state New Orleans Hornets. I've followed the playoffs with interest, but lifestyle changes along with travel and photo blogging ( and kept me from providing a running account of this year's tournament.

Now we're down to one or two games in Boston between the Celtics and the Lakers, historical NBA rivals going back almost 50 years, though not so much in the last 20, as the Celtics haven't been very good. The Lakers forced Game Six by taking last night's elimination game in LA by 103-98. The win has inspired some "it's not over yet" talk, but my opinion is that "it'll be over soon"--probably on Tuesday night after Game Six. (Did the Staples Center have this in mind with their "NOT IN OUR HOUSE" message on the scoreboard after Game Five--the implied message might be "but probably in your house").

The probability of the Lakers winning two in Boston seems very, very low to me. They were fortunate to win Game Five in LA, blowing separate 19 and 14 point leads before prevailing on Kobe's steal and rescue of a loose ball in the last minute of play.

In this series the Celtics have convinced me that they're the best team in the NBA. In both this series and against Detroit they corrected the problem they had on the road vs Atlanta and Cleveland.

I'm also concerned that the Lakers are conflicted as a team. They want to play team ball, but when things go bad they give the ball to Kobe and get out of the way. The Celtics know this, and collapse on Kobe so that all he can do is take a bad shot or make a bad pass. A few of the bad shots go in or result in foul shots, but not enough to win the game.

Still, stranger things have happened, most recently in the 2004 ALCS that is so beloved in Boston. The best thing the Lakers can do is to ignore the scoreboard and play every possession on both ends like their season depends on it, which it does. Despite the Lakers' desperation it will be the Celtics who play like their season depends on it, to prevent a "one game for everything" Game Seven. As a result, the Celtics will light victory cigars, probably very early on Wednesday morning, an amazing turnaround of a team that won fewer than 30 games just one year ago.

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