The Byford Files

Screw It, I’m Talking Game Seven

Firstly, before I get into Celtics and Lakers, I high-fived Ellison last night after my lovely wife and I had her wonderful barbecue chicken. She said that Ellison goes flips and somersaults after meals. It was faint, but I felt the movement. Ellison is one active child. My lovely wife told me that, in time as we get closer to the whoa date, that you’ll be able to actually see the imprint of a foot or a hand on the surface of her belly. That’s some heavy stuff. That’s some Ridley Scott material right there.

Now, as much as I don’t wanna talk sports in this zone, this is my place. Ellison’s pops is a Celtics fan. She’ll grow up knowing (but not necessarily caring) that Paul Pierce was a great Celtic. Larry Bird substituted in for Paul Bunyan. McHale will be Babe the Blue Ox. Robert Parish, Reggie Lewis, Dennis Johnson, Dee Brown, the Chris Ford years, the hard Pitino years, Red Auerbach and his cigars, Dino Radja, Antoine Walker, Dominique Wilkins (that was weird), Len Bias and the day we got Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett and returned to championship form. There will be no mention of Rick Fox and Brian Shaw. They’re dead to me.

As we head into an impossible Game Seven tonight in LA, it’s with great reluctance that I admit that there is no way they can win tonight. Not that Kendrick and his bum knee is all that our championship hinged on, but let’s be real: the Lakers are faster, younger, more talented and, most importantly, at home. It’s stacked against them and as an old, weary team of ailing veterans only supported by the reckless youth of Rondo and Big Baby Davis, they don’t stand a chance. You look at our bench and they’re the oddest C-team of has-beens and never-weres you’ve ever seen. Shelden Williams, Rasheed Wallace, Michael Finley, Scalabrine. Reality is we shouldn’t have even made it here.

We were the fourth seed in the east and had to go through Cleveland (who everyone thought would be in the Finals) and Orlando, 1 and 2 in the East respectively. We beat both of them in six and whooped the Heat in only five. To do that and then to drag the favored Lakers to seven, in itself, is an accomplishment.

Just heard Kobe on the radio say, “If you don’t win a championship, it’s a failure.” For a guy who has millions in endorsements and all those high-gloss Nike ads out there, I’m sure he’s right. But for the Celtics, getting there and going the distance is by no means a failure. Phil Jackson’s 47-0 in series where he wins the first game might soon become 48-0 and all the media will have another number to toss around, put in their “by the numbers” section to hype up a series beyond what’s on the court. I said before this all started that if this series doesn’t go seven games where all games are decided by less than ten points, it’ll be the most overhyped series ever. Well, let’s go to the tape:

Game 1:  Celtics 89, Lakers 102

Game 2:  Celtics 103, Lakers 94

Game 3:  Lakers 91, Celtics 84

Game 4:  Lakers 89, Celtics 96

Game 5:  Lakers 86, Celtics 92

Game 6:  Celtics 67, Lakers 89

Besides Game 1 and 6, this series has been pretty remarkable series. And, oddly, both of those games were Celtics’ losses. When they lose, they lose. I didn’t watch Game Six because I felt there was no way they could beat the Lakers three games in a row with the third coming in LA. Talk about improbable. I think of the money that would’ve been lost on that game had the Celtics pulled off a miraculous win. Tonight’s outcome is a bit more predictable. Lakers in a landslide. I can only hope that the game is close and worth watching past halftime. When I heard about the team after Kendrick went out on Tuesday, they sounded completely deflated and defeated. I figured there’s no recovering from that low.

Meanwhile, what we suffered on Tuesday in the second half was just demoralizing. We got our asses whooped in, from the few minutes I watched, looked like a pick-up game. They were having their way with an old team that has never looked older. The 24-point comeback from two years ago was not only unlikely, it was impossible. Paul doesn’t move like he used to. KG is Robert Parish. Ray Allen missed a layup. Big Baby missed wide open looks. Rondo lost all aggression. It was the same team that could barely pinch off a win in the last two weeks of the regular season as they crawled into the playoffs.

I love this team, though. I’ll watch them. And if they have anything going for them, tonight’s game might be the last time you see this collection of players on the court ever again. Captain Paul Pierce is late in his career. Won his championship two years ago. Illustrious career. KG and his continued health problems will make another run at a title very unlikely. Ray Allen, already known as one of the greatest shooters the game has ever known, has never looked older than he has in these playoffs. Geez, Charles Barkley mentioned that he thought Doc Rivers is going to take a job with TNT next year. It could all dissolve after this. And Rondo and that bench, knowing that this might be their best chance at a championship that they’ll ever have, might lift them to greatness tonight.

They’ve got enough to overcome. The headline read the other day, “Lakers Rip Out Celtics’ Heart in Game Six.” Another read, “Lakers Pave Easy Road to Championship.”

Paul plays really good when he’s pissed off. And there’s nothing more that pisses him off than a Laker crowd that hates him. KG needs to turn into that weird, scary alter-ego Predator vs. Alien character and col’ go off. Ray needs to have one of those silent assassin, sniper-on-the-rooftop games where he nails down the big buckets. Rondo’s gonna have to, once again, put up a career game. He needs to be a triple-double, no doubt. And we need Rasheed and Big Baby to completely disrupt the Lakers defense. Big Baby’s got the body, but not the height. Sheed’s got the height, but not the speed. Together, they’re gonna have to get it done. And Sheed, you got two technicals that you can use at will now without the penalty of a suspension. Nate Robinson, yeah, you gotta show up huge. Tony Allen needs to get stops on Kobe. That’s all he has to do. Someone else needs to come in and give spark. Michael Finley? Marquis Daniels? If we can get those things to line up, we stand a chance tonight.

But this is my team. They’ve already proved themselves by making it here. Kobe, if anything other than a championship is a failure, then I guess we can live with that. You’ve certainly played your career that way. When you win, you win selfishly. You want it all. When you don’t win it all, you pout. You blame your teammates. You both win ugly and lose ugly. All I hear is about Kobe’s “legacy” is hanging in the balance tonight. I’ve heard enough about it to make me puke.

I’ll recall the year that an aging but passionate Celtics team left their heart out there on the floor and came close to winning a championship. Man, I’d come unglued if they could win tonight. I’m not expectant. I’ve always doubted this team because I’ve seen them play. Two days ago, I thought they had a chance. Maybe I’ve read too much. Maybe I’ve bought too much into media’s assessment of this Celtics team.

It’s Game Seven. It’s proved to be a better series than two years ago when both teams were number one seeds. Didn’t think that’d happen. The NBA doesn’t get much to cheer about these days. It’s third to football and baseball in this country and besides this rivalry, there’s very little that the NBA has to rouse the nation beyond Celtics and Lakers. It won’t revive the league, but it reminds us of this history. Hopefully, this chapter is one we’ll look back on in 2040 as one of the last great Finals.

I’m blindly and faithfully hoping for a Celtics victory. Celtics 93, Lakers 87.


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