The Los Angeles Lakers Road Trip Experience is a four-part mini-blog documenting my journey to the East Coast to follow the Lakers. This is part-journalism, part-fanhood.
The Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers are two teams with similar histories of undeniable success that are headed in pretty much the same direction right now.
After collectively winning three championships in the late 2000s, both teams are old, battered, and have limitations that will make it very difficult for them to win NBA titles this season.
That being said, both combatants are elite defensive ball clubs who must rely on strength and physicality if they want to go deep in the playoffs.
That's exactly what I witnessed Thursday night: a defensive struggle that was won in overtime by athletic plays in the paint by Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol.
After a tough loss in Philadelphia, the Lakers bounced back big time in Bean Town.
Boston had treated me well in the last few days. I went to Conor Larkin's bar near Northeastern University on Wednesday night and found out from one of the bartenders that the Lakers were staying at the Four Seasons Hotel near the Boston Commons.
As enticing as it was to go check out the hotel and perhaps see a few of the Lakers players on Thursday morning, I opted to just go to the game.
It was getting closer to game time and I took the Green Line train toward North Station. The TD Garden is literally located on top of the train station, one of the more unique attributes for a basketball arena.
On the train, I noticed a few Celtics fans giving me dirty looks because of my Lakers garb and I started thinking to myself what I was going to get myself into.
As I exited the Subway train, I noticed numerous scalpers wandering around and trying to make a profit on one of the biggest games of the season. However, because both teams aren't as good as they once were, the demand for these tickets had diminished a bit.
I spoke to a scalper, who declined to be videotaped with an angry Bostonian accent. He said, "This isn't a typical Celtics-Lakers market. I'm not selling these tickets for as much as I was last season or the year before."
However, this didn't mean that the game lacked any excitement.
There was a playoff-like buzz when the game started at 8:00, but Boston fans started giving me a hard time well before that with their constant demeaning remarks toward the Lakers. After last night, it could easily be said that Bostonians are among the best trash-talkers in the country.
Among all of the harsh words the Lakers received from Celtic Nation, the best one was from a fan sitting behind me who would shout "No means no" to Kobe Bryant every time he shot a free throw, referring to the 2003 sexual assault allegations.
Later on in the game he shouted, "Hello, room service, I'd like a girl who doesn't say no."
As the game commenced, there was a Rob Gronkowski sighting in the second quarter on the jumbotron. Surprisingly, he was cheered heavily even after he was spotted boozing with teammates after the Super Bowl defeat.
Like the Lakers-Sixers game on Monday, this game was close throughout. No team had a double-digit lead and this made for an exciting finish.
During halftime, I went to get some food and I was astonished by some of the prices.
Absolutely unreal. $14.50 for beer, a tiny hot dog and chips. I'll pass.
The second half is when the game got really tense.
However, this fan helped alleviate some of that tension with his unbelievable dance moves during breaks in the action.
As the game went into the fourth quarter, the Garden started getting louder. Let the video do the talking. It is difficult to see, but this was Pau Gasol's game-tying shot in the fourth quarter.
The following video is the final sequence of the game when Gasol swatted the ball away to secure a Lakers victory.
The atmosphere at the Garden was unreal as the Lakers defeated the Celtics for the fourth consecutive year.
One of the few things I've noticed on this trip is the togetherness of Lakers fans during road games.
Which leads me to ask an interesting question:
Are two people really strangers if they share a common love for a team?
I interacted with many people I did not know throughout the game. They were people of different races, backgrounds and religions. We'd have conversations ranging from topics from games of Lakers past to the team's current point-guard situation.
Road games connect fans to a greater extent. I've been to plenty of games at the Staples Center, but there is rarely any interaction with any of the fans.
On the road though, it's constant fist-bumping, conversations and interactions with Lakers fans.
After the game, while walking back to my hotel on Boston's cobblestone sidewalks, a midnight jogger spotted my Bryant jersey and excitedly made a remark about the game.
"Awesome finish, huh?"
I replied, "Yeah, unbelievable."
That brief encounter resonated loudly for me. We were 2,500 miles away from Los Angeles, yet we connected instantly because of a bond we have for a basketball team.
Now that's special.
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