Celtics fans should be heartened by last night's win in Game One, especially when one considers that the Cs gave the Lakers every opportunity to steal a win (and home court advantage). Consider these plays:
* With 3 minutes left in the third quarter, on a two-on-one fastbreak, Ray Allen (who has spent the last four weeks throwing his aging body into any opposing player to try and get himself to the free throw line to 'grind' his way out of a shooting slump by manufacturing points), decided to try an around-the-back pass rather than challenge his nemesis, Kobe.
* After doing his best to shoot the Cs out of the game with several brutal attempts in crunch time (including the previous possession), Sam Cassell decided to become a pass-first guy with 0:02 left on the shot clock and 7 minutes left.
* Despite a decided rebound advantage, the Cs gave up two key offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter to Pau Gausol (one with 6:11 left and the Cs clinging to a 4 point advantage, the other a minute later, with the deficit at 6).
* Two separate back-court violations -- which get called once per leap year in the NBA -- both of which may have been influenced by the large icon of the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy which was laid down over the centerline area:
-- In the first quarter, the Lakers' Pau Gausol was called for a back-court violation, although the replay showed that the call should not have been made.
-- In the fourth with 9 minutes left, KG saved a bad pass by taking off just short of the center-court line; although replays confirmed the (non)-call, it easily could have been whistled. The Cs ended up converting on the broken play.
* Ray Allen missed only his 5th foul shot of the entire playoffs (he's shooting 92.9%) with 2:33 left.
Despite all this, and a general lack of ability to 'score the basketball' in the fourth quarter on the part of the Cs, the Lakers couldn't close the deal. As Kobe said after the game, it was a "nice little kick in the ass."
Stay classy, Kobe.
And we'll see you on Sunday, for a game that has now become a 'must-win' for...the Lakers.
With the 2-3-2 format, which is unique for any team sport (excepting baseball, where the home court is not nearly as important as in basketball or hockey), the pressure on the visiting team to 'steal' a game on the road in the first two games is enormous.
With almost no chance to win the Series if they return to Boston for Game 6 with a 2-3 deficit, the Lakers have to either win Game Two, or else win three games in a row in LA (Games 3, 4, and 5).
We'll see if Kobe can convert the bunnies.