I’ve been waiting for the Doc to slip up. Beneath the formalities and smiles, there lay the brooding vengeance of the Irish.
"They still have not beaten our starting five. Our starting five against the Lakers starting five has a ring. Tell him don’t forget that. We will be back strong and Perk will be there next year if there’s a game seven."
- Doc Rivers on ESPN 980
I knew you had it in you, Doc. The bitter rivalry never truly ends with a firm handshake and a congratulatory gesture of respect.
Game 7 was a close one. Never have I stood frozen in one place for two straight quarters as my co-workers stared at me like a Edvard Munch’s Scream reprint. Too close. What a fine line that win was. It was only a four-point victory, but those four points determined fate like Judgment Day.
I re-watched the game a month later, never failing to utter my usual string of profanity in spite of my foreknowledge of the outcome. No matter how I look at it, it was a ghastly performance. Have you forgotten? Pau was 6-16 and made 7-13 free throws. Young Bynum with his overaged knees made one basket in 19 minutes. Odom went 0-3 from the arc, with 7 points in all 38 minutes. Even Kobe was well below his average with 25% shooting.
How did we win? Nothing makes sense on paper. Celtics were 40.8% from the field to Lakers’ 32.5% and 37.5% from the threes to a measly 20% for the Lakers. Even on free throws, we trailed by 20.6% to the Celtics’ outstanding 88.2% team shooting. So how do you explain a four point loss after what appeared to be a terrific display of team basketball?
I really can’t say. Steve, my journalist friend, always tells me that Lakers are all about grinding it out. Maybe that’s what happened. Despite the Lakers’ top 3 players producing below 40%, and Kobe’s off-night in the most critical game of the year… Lakers "grinded it out." Can you still credit the loss to the absence of Kendrick Perkins? Hardly. Wallace was impeccable as a replacement, especially with that clutch three in the fourth quarter.
And if you do press on with that argument, then what would have happened if Kobe was not playing on a myriad of injuries? What if Bynum had been healthy, and scored more than two points? What if Pau had made his free throws, like he usually does? Does Professor Farnsworth really need to run this by the What If machine (for all you Futurama fans)?
Celtics brought their A game (with the exception of Allen) and it wasn’t enough. Simple as that. Perkins had never scored beyond single digits in the series, except in game 2. Even then, Bynum managed to pound 21 points in the paint with Perkins guarding him. And in light of Doc’s starting five comment, don’t forget that in 2008, Bynum and Ariza were both injured throughout the series, so technically the Celtics starting five never beat the Lakers starting five either. I’m sorry, Doc, but your arguments are invalid here. Let’s not bother the professor.
Now, 2011 is a different story. I think it best to remain humble, but let’s break it down for a second. Shaq is one away from 40 this year, and the other O’neal is injury-prone. Add another year to KG, Pierce, and Allen, and you can almost start a 35 and over club. In a time when they should be considering bench roles, the big three will be starting another season of 82 games, logging a heavy 30-minutes per game. I suppose Doc forgot to mention that we’re not playing baseball here. You can’t play in tip-top shape till you’re 40.
So here’s a rebuttal for you, Doc. Celtics lost the one chance to beat the Lakers while Bynum hobbled on one knee, Kobe was shooting with four fingers, and Pau was choking on free throws like bad broccoli. Need I mention that the Celtics are older than last year? There won’t be a game 7 next year. There won’t even be a match up. Come June, we’re either going to have a rematch with Magic or finally let Nike go through with their cutesy Kobe and Lebron muppet show in the finals.
But we welcome your challenge. It’s another reason to eagerly wait for the season to start. No need to cry, Doc. It’s water under the bridge.