The morning after
There are certain types of history to which teams want their names attached, and types to which they don't. For the Lakers, Thursday night's 97-91 loss to the Celtics in Game 4 of the NBA Finals put them squarely in the latter category. It was, quite literally, the biggest collapse in Finals history (or as much history as the NBA has records to confirm). At one point in the second quarter, the purple and gold were up by 24 points. At halftime, they had an 18 point advantage. By the end of the third, it was all but gone, as Boston closed out the quarter with a 21-3 run. In the fourth, Boston took control, grabbing the lead on an Eddie House jumper from the wing. From there, it was all Celtics down the stretch.
What looked like a 2-2 series with LA holding home court for Sunday's Game 5 became a 3-1 Celtics lead, and some very discouraging math for the Lakers. 28 times a team has fallen behind 3-1 in the Finals, and not one of the 28 was able to overcome the deficit to win the Larry O. Of course, no team had ever blown a 24 point lead, either, so technically anything is possible, right?
Only if the Lakers get a more consistent effort from Kobe and his supporting cast. After a red-hot start from Lamar Odom helped push LA to a 21 point lead to end the first, the Lakers offense began to dry up. Kobe finished the first half without a field goal (but with six dimes and four pilfers), and never really got going, as Paul Pierce stepped up in the third quarter to mark 24. The Celtics started hitting shots while the Lakers began overdribbling, made some questionable decisions, and generally fell apart.
The storylines emerging from the game are plentiful, and none really favor LA. How the Celtics defense is proving again that it's that side of the ball that wins titles. Pierce out-MVPing the MVP. What can be learned from comparing Pau Gasol to Kevin Garnett. How Doc Rivers is pushing all the right buttons- going small by inserting Eddie House and James Posey, sticking Pierce on Kobe, once again setting up his squad to dominate the third quarter- while PJ is coming up short (and lacking in enough buttons to push). A devastating dribble drive from Ray Allen late in the fourth against Sasha Vujacic, with Pau Gasol late to rotate. The Celtics bench continuing to thrive.
It was a tough pill for Sasha to swallow.
Grandchildren will hear about Thursday's game, but it won't be ones in LA. Rather the game will become a staple of Celtics lore. The impossible proved otherwise. Just don't call it a choke, says Bill Plaschke. It can't be a choke when the better team wins. (TJ Simers might disagree.) For some, it was just a bad flashback to bad results against the C's back in the days of yore.
If the Lakers are indeed cooked- and again, history (along with the results of the first four games) says they are- fans have a lot to be thankful for in what has been a remarkable season.
True Hoop takes a look at last night's game.