Is it ridiculous to have tears in your eyes over a basketball game? Maybe, but I love this team, the Lakers. I have been a Lakers fan dating back to when Jerry West was still COACH of the Lakers, and Kareem was pre-Magic. I have seriously enjoyed the ride - the highs and the lows, and especially the rivalry between the Celtics and Lakers.
What do they say about keeping your friends close, and your enemies closer? To beat the enemy, you need to understand how they think. The Lakers didn't understand this in 2008, and got creamed, including both an epic collapse and a 39-point drubbing by these same Celtics, and this same core.
Two years later, the Lakers learned their lesson, and returned the favor, first responding to a close-out game in Game 6 with a 20 point blowout win. Then, in Game 7 rallying from 13 down in the third quarter to outlast the Celtics and win the Series, 4-3.
This was an ugly game. Everyone could sense the significance of the moment, and played accordingly, mostly bad on offense, but incredible on defense.
This was a game where the Lakers simply couldn't put the ball in the basket, shooting 32.5% for the game. Early on, they were even missing the freebies, free throws, in some volume.
But lest we never forget Pat Riley's mantra of "No Rebounds, No Rings." For the entirety of the Series, the team that won the rebounding battle, and specifically the offensive rebounding game, would ultimately win.
Why? Because winning the offensive boards means that you are controlling the paint, and the combination leads to easy second-chance points, including lots of free throws.
Well, the Lakers won the overall rebounding battle by 13, and did this by crushing Boston on the offensive boards, 23-8.
Over time, having lost the paint battle, the Celtics lost their steam (they're old - they got fatigued). Down the stretch, this led to a lot of fouls, and the Lakers living at the line in the fourth quarter, which enabled them to consistently put points on the board in the game's final moments.
GIVE THE CELTICS THEIR DUE
For most of the game, the Celtics showed more poise than the Lakers. In that regard, after a hard-fought series, you can not help but respect the Celtics spirit, trust in their players, individual stars and commitment to team defense. They are well-coached by Doc Rivers, and embody his mental toughness.
As such, no outcome would have surprised me tonight. Heck, a part of me was getting into crash position when the Lakers fell behind the Celts by 13, after playing from behind for most of the game.
To this moment, these Lakers hadn't shown that they could face down the Celts and emerge victorious.
And then it happened. The Lakers seized control, and the Celtics ran out of gas, fighting solidly to the end. Rasheed Wallace, he of tough series against the Lakers with Portland, Detroit and now Boston, almost emerged as a hero.
But, not tonight. The Lakers were not to be denied, and are the Champs again, prevailing in a tough series, with a long-standing foe, where there was unfinished business and a still-bitter taste.
Well, that business is now finished, which is why I have tears in my eyes about a basketball game.
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