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Celtics-Lakers: The Boston Conundrum

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I give up.

I’m done trying to figure out this Boston Celtics team. It’s pointless; an exercise in futility. I truly believe I’d have a better chance of divining the meaning of life than piecing together the puzzle that is this Celtics squad.

Heading into the postseason, Boston was clearly the best team in the league. Sixty-six regular season wins and a historically great defense will do that for you. But then the playoffs began, and the would-be champs looked more like chumps. First, Atlanta (Atlanta?!?!) took the Celtics to seven games. Then the Cleveland LeBrons did the same, and it took a performance for the ages from Paul Pierce to save Boston’s bacon. In fact, it wasn’t until the fourth quarter of Game 6 against Detroit that we finally caught a glimpse of the Celtics team we saw throughout most of the regular season.

So just to recap: After 20 playoff games, Boston’s championship credentials appeared faker than an episode of The Hills. Twenty games is a pretty significant sample size, wouldn’t you say? Not surprisingly, everyone (myself included) jumped on the Los Angeles Lakers bandwagon before the Finals, figuring they’d dispatch the Beantown bunch and expose them for the frauds they were. After all, the Lakers had taken care of business the way champions are supposed to on their way to a title. They had the superior player (Kobe Bryant), the superior coach (Phil Jackson) and the seemingly superior mindset.

The Finals began with a bit of surprise, as Boston won the first two games rather convincingly. Ray Allen, persona non grata in New England after no-showing his way through the better part of the first three rounds, was suddenly knocking down every shot in sight and doing a better than decent job defending Kobe Bryant. That’s right, the guy who couldn’t upstage Wally Szerbiak was suddenly holding his own against the league’s MVP. Go figure. But then a small amount of order was restored when the Lakers won Game 3 and seized a 24-point first half lead Thursday night. It seemed L.A. had finally figured things out and had the look of a team poised to not only even up the series, but finish things off with two more wins as well. Boston’s true colors were being revealed, and with a banged up Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics were powerless to turn the tide.

So what happened next? Only the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history, of course. Naturally. Because, really, when you get right down to it, nothing else could have been more fitting. If any one game could possibly encapsulate Boston’s wacky postseason run, this was it. They were mind-numbingly awful. And they were mind-blowingly awesome. Just because it doesn’t fit into my championship team paradigm doesn’t mean it can’t work. It just means I don’t get it. And chances are, I never will.

So now what? Do I dare place my faith in the Celtics once again? Or should I hate them all the more for their Jekyll and Hyde behavior? Tough to say, but I’m heavily leaning toward the latter simply because I’m already dreading the onslaught of talk centered around the fact that Boston teams are now responsible for two of the most improbable comebacks in sports history, not to mention the 1.8 billion books surely being written right this very moment on the Golden Age of Boston sports.

If there’s a plus side to any of this, it’s that we can now put the “Kobe is just as good/better than Jordan” nonsense to bed once and for all. Last I checked, MJ never lost one Finals, must less two, and he sure as hell never allowed his team to cough up a 24-point lead in the biggest game of the season (at home, no less). As my buddy Kev said via email right after the game: “I just don’t think God likes rapists.”

No, He probably doesn’t. But He certainly seems to have a thing for these Celtics. I mean, how else to explain their wacky run toward the title?

Got any better ideas? I’m all ears. - Jason Friedman

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