At the final buzzer of Thursday's game, there were Celtics fans celebrating all over the country. They had seen the worst of the Celtics, the lapse that could've turned the entire series around. They instead came out with the ferocious game that had made them the best team in the NBA, and they came back to beat the second best team in the NBA.
The Lakers now know who is number one. The Celtics now know who is number one. The analysts and the talking heads now see who the true underdog is in this Finals matchup. And the Lakers are now placed at the brink of losing Kobe's chance to show he can win without Shaq (he'll have more chances).
After the game, the thoughts running through Celtics fans heads' were: "We're the best! Why did the Lakers underestimate us?", “Our defense is the best, and not even Kobe can get through it!", “Ray Allen has to be the Finals MVP. No doubt.", “Hey Joey, you going to come with me to the parade"?
If you had any of these thoughts over the last 72 hours, I have a little bit of advice to give you.
Stop it. Hold your horses. Put the dogs back in the house, because the talking heads are barking too loud now in the Celtics favor. Before we start making artwork for the next Celtics' banner, understand this:
1. Kobe Bryant plays for the Lakers.
Kobe Bryant plays for the Lakers. Kobe Bryant wins games. Kobe Bryant loses games, too. But his name alone should make any fan wary of his prowess and worrisome about his late-game abilities. He has only been able to fight through the Celtics defense for one game, but it doesn't mean that another one or two big games may not be coming the Celtics' way.
2. The Lakers have shooters.
They are dangerous, and they have a bunch of them. I have mentioned most of this in my formal analysis, and their talent to hit the shot from anywhere on the court is scary. If they hit their open shots, and disrupt our defense with mismatches, they will be tough to prevail against, even with a struggling Kobe.
3. Pau Gasol is great.
Steven A. Smith of ESPN has continually called Gasol "soft as tissue paper." He is on-point with his statement, but Gasol is nonetheless a great player who has given the Celtics defense constant hardship. He doesn't shoot bad shots often, and makes the smart play when he has the ball.
In a close game, and where the Celtics' best defensive player is Kevin Garnett, his existence may prove more meaningful for a better Lakers offense than ANY other player on the floor.
4. Celtics' injuries.
Another writer on the Bleacher Report had stated that the longer this series goes, the better chance the Lakers have. I don't believe that is true, but I do understand this; the fatigue/playing factor for our banged-up players (Rondo, Pierce, Perkins) may not benefit them if they have to go into game seven.
The Celtics' bench is much deeper, and Eddie House has done nothing short of an amazing job at taking up a lot of Rondo's minutes. But any extra injuries, re-aggravations, or bad plays due to injuries will only put more pressure on our team. Our bench is able to handle the pressure, but how many times could they come through if another injury comes to play during a game?
5. The Celtics lose focus on a lead.
They can lead by 20, they can lead by 10, and they can lead by two games. But throughout the season, the Celtics have been known to lose focus when they have a lead (us Celtics fans have seen these fall-apart sequences all too often). If the Celtics don't have that murderous mentality for game five or game six, we could be sure to see a tied series.
6. Hasn't the last decade told us anything?
I can't blame a Celtics fan from holding back their joy of the current predicament of seeing their team one game closer from their 17th championship. I can't blame ESPN for writing features about what it will mean for Pierce to finally win the biggest series in basketball. I can't blame the total lack of Lakers fans that have hidden under rocks after their nonchalant predictions of the Lakers winning in five or six games.
But the series is NOT OVER. The series is going to start again at 9 pm, and can continue up until Thursday. If history has impressed anything upon a Boston Celtics fan (and Boston fans in general), it is history has given us great gifts and gut-wrenching experience in sports over the last few years.
Remember the Celtics-Nets series? Remember those free throws Pierce missed?
Remember when the Patriots were supposed to lose to the Rams? Do you remember the score?
Did any of us feel good after losing badly to the Yankees in game three of the 2004 ALCS? Do you remember how you felt five days later? Did that feeling feel as powerful as winning against the Oakland Athletics in game five of the 2003 ALDS? Aaron Boone? The 2005 Denver Broncos? Eli Manning?
With the good and the bad, the Celtics fans should understand that their team is better, and that the Lakers media, the Lakers fans, and the ESPN talking heads, were wrong in their analysis. But no one right now should be confident about who is going to win.
History has a great talent for those who try to celebrate a little too early, and Boston fans have been recent victims to the poison of feeling that we cannot be defeated. As a Boston fan, I want my team to win more than anything, but I am not a fan of buying my champagne before I know I will be happy enough to uncork it.
Ps: My analysis is clear on what I think is going to happen, so read it before you think I am biased for either team. This had only a sample of the Lakers' abilities, but I wanted less of analysis and more to portray reason to keep humble watching the rest of the Finals.