The season began with the promise of two behemoths… two all-time greats… destined to square off.
The Lakers — two-time defending champs… fresh off exacting revenge against the Celtics were widely considered the class of the West.
The Celtics — minutes away from their second title in three years had re-tooled their roster and were still one of the best two or three teams in the East.
The script was written. They had to meet one more time to settle this generation’s stalemate. One team would have to have bragging rights by beating the other twice on its way to a parade.
But this isn’t Hollywood. This is the NBA. And scripts get re-written on a daily basis.
Fast-forward to May 5th. On this Cinco de Mayo, you raise your margarita in a world where both the Celtics and Lakers sit in their corners having lost the first two rounds of their semi-final fight. The league’s premier franchises, with 33 championships between them, have veered off their destined path. The Lakers are in the unenviable position of having to win three road games if they’re to hold on to any hopes of a three-peat. And the Celtics may have unleashed a demon that can no longer be controlled. The scariest analysis of Heat-Celtics Game two came from a Michael Wallace tweet:
The image of a dazed Kevin Garnett stumbling around the mat looking for his mouthpiece while LeBron celebrates over him is a tough image for Celtics fans to swallow.
The thing that has to worry Lakers and Celtics fans most is that they are doing the one thing veteran teams like them don’t usually do: lose their composure. Ron Artest’s forearm shiver to JJ Barea got him a one-game suspension for Game Three. And Paul Pierce’s Game One technical fouls within a minute of each other had him watching the rest of a winnable game from the locker room while his team could have really used someone who could create his own shot in the clutch. Both were bone-headed moves from guys who should know better… especially Pierce.
And both teams are suffering from an uncharacteristic lack of execution, especially on the defensive end. The Lakers continued to get burned by going over screens and chasing Barea into the paint… allowing him to shoot 4-6 on shots from within nine feet of the rim. That’s a guy barely six feet tall getting all those shots against a team known for its length. It’s an inexplicable lapse. Just as inexplicable as the Celtics letting James Jones drop 25 points on them off the bench in Game One. And do you know how many dribbles Jones had to take to find an opening to go 5-7 from three?
The good news for fans of both teams is both teams are making correctable mistakes. Each team can get back to the style of basketball that got them to the semifinals and still win their series. A two-game hole is bad… but it’s not a death knell. So each team is hoping to be more Muhammad Ali vs. George Foreman than Tyson-Douglas.
This wasn’t supposed to be the script for these two teams. But when was the last time anything in life truly followed the script anyway? Down 2-0? It’s either going to be the sad ending to some great chapters in each team’s history… or it will be that moment in the movie where it looks like the champ is down… but he beats the odds. The script is being re-written either way. The only question now is… will it be a happy ending for either of these two teams?