June 16, 2010
October 27th, 2009 was the first day of the 2009-10 NBA Season. June 17th, 2010 (or early morning of June 18th, if you're around my time zone) will be it's last. The Boston Celtics were involved in the first (against the Cavs) and will be involved in the last. For only the second time in the past decade, the NBA Finals will be decided in game seven. The Celtics and the Lakers are tied 3-3 in the best-of-seven series, and the Game Seven, the one game to rule them all, will be played in less than two days.
I had predicted earlier that this series would go down to the last game - and now, this Game Seven is going to be by far the single biggest basketball game of my NBA-watching life, maybe closely followed by the 1999 NBA Finals when my New York Knicks lost Game 5 against the Spurs by one point to lose the series 4-1. That was some depressing ish.
But here we are - two of the most succesful franchises in NBA history go head to head again. The Lakers and the Celtics ARE the NBA Finals. The two teams are the last two champions (Celtics in 08, Lakers in 09), they have met each other 11 times before in the NBA finals, and after Game 7, 33 out of 64 NBA Championships would've been won by either won of these two teams. There is a lot at stake on just this one game.
48 more minutes. (And maybe overtime)
If Celtics win, this would be their 18th championship. The 2nd one for their starting five, and Glen Davis, and Tony Allen, and Rasheed Wallace (who won his first won with the Pistons), and of course, Brian Scalabrine. It would be coach Doc Rivers' second victory over Phil Jackson and the Lakers. It would further solidify Garnett, Pierce, and Ray Allen as future Hall of Famers, and surely propel Rajon Rondo as unarguably the best point guard in the league.
If Lakers win, this would be their 16th championship, and they would become back to back winners. Kobe Bryant would equal Magic Johnson with five rings for the Lakers, and what more, would also join Magic as one of the few Lakers to lead their team in a Finals victory against the Celtics. Kobe and Derek Fisher would also become the active players with the most amount of rings - Tim Duncan and Shaq have four. What is scary is that Kobe is much younger than any of them, and still has fuel in him to go on for three or four more servicable seasons. And of course, he would only be one championship away from Michael Jordan's, although Jordan was the undeniable main man aka Finals MVP in all six, whereas Kobe was Shaq's sidekick in his first three. Still, a win here would cement Kobe's legacy into another stratosphere. The rest of Kobe's crew, in Gasol, Bynum (who skipped the 08 Finals), and Odom would double up their rings. Of course, legendary Lakers (and former Chicago Bulls) coach Phil Jackson would be the proud owner of an unprecedented 11 rings as head coach.
What is perhaps most intriguing that, after just one more game, either Nate Robinson or Ron Artest will be sitting pretty with a championship ring.
There are so many equations, statistics, stories that are going to add up to this one final game. All the history between these two franchises, Kobe's strive to become the greatest of all time, the 'old' Celtics proving to the world that their teamwork and chemistry is the key to success, the Big 3 of KG, Pierce, and Allen, and the future that is Rondo, and Pau Gasol becoming the best big man in the league, and Rasheed Wallace and Nate Robinson and Ron Artest sprinkling their bits of crazy. It would be Artest's redemption after the infamous 'Malice at the Palace' and all the questions that were raised when he was brought it to the Lakers after they lost Trevor Ariza. And Doc Rivers vs. Phil Jackson, and the beautiful Hollywood faces at Los Angeles vs. the passionate basketball fanatics at Boston.
Game Sevens are a myth of their own. They have caused broken hearts, cemented legends, caused embarrasment, caused exultation. Hell, there's even a book about it.
This had already been a classic series, going back and forth, and there still isn't a clear-cut favourite. Right now it's the Lakers because they blew out the Celtics with awesome defense in Game 6. A few days ago, it was the Celtics, as they took a 3-2 lead with great balanced play. A little more than a week ago, it was the Lakers, when they excelled on both sides of the court to win Game 1 in LA.
The Lakers, who hold home court, and momentum, and the greatest closer in the game - Kobe - are probably the favourites now. But the Celtics have shown time and again all postseason that they will never be discounted, never be down. Whether they ended fourth in the East to start the playoffs, or lost by 29 points to the Cavs at home, or destroyed a perfect Magic team in the Conference Finals, or shocked a Lakers squad with a 3-2 lead just a few days ago.
Less than two days to find out what happens. Just one game to make history.
One more game.