2009-10 Boston Celtics: The Day After

Stew Winkel@stew_winkelSenior Analyst IJune 18, 2010

There are many reasons I love being a sports fan, and I truly believe that people who do not follow sports are simply missing out.

But if there is one occurrence that always makes me wish that maybe I did not take sports so seriously, it is the day after.

Obviously, I am not talking about the day after a big win.  Nothing can compare to that.

Staying up all night to watch every post-game show you can and DVR’ing the ones you can’t.  Waking up early to catch up on what you missed, spending the day talking to everyone you can, calling everyone you can, and e-mailing everyone you can.  Hoping that people stop you to ask about the game or at least ask why you are so happy, just to give you another opportunity to talk about it.

That is the good part of the day after.

What I hate is the complete opposite.  It is the day after a terrible loss.

As a Celtics fan, I am having one of those days today.

Immediately after the Celtics lost Game Seven to the hated Los Angeles Lakers last night, it began.  The sick feeling in my stomach.  The constant barrage of thoughts about what went wrong, what could have been different, what if, what if, what if.

After only a couple hours sleep, I woke up today around 5 a.m., wide awake, with that same sick feeling, only even worse.

Unlike after a win, today I don’t want to turn on my TV, I don’t want to get on the internet.  I keep writing the same e-mails to different friends, going over the same things.  Letting out the anger and frustration should help, but it doesn’t.

My mind keeps going back and forth between the same thoughts.

Up three games to two.

Up 13 in the third quarter.

Up four going into the fourth quarter.

Held Kobe Bryant to a Starks-ian 6-24 from the floor.

But it was all for naught.  The Celtics fell behind by as many as six points in the fourth quarter, and though they made a great effort at the end—with three pointers from Ray Allen, Rasheed Wallace, and Rajon Rondo—it was not enough.

Why didn’t the Celtics keep going to Kevin Garnett?  Garnett had 17 points last night on 8-13 shooting.  The rest of the Celtics shot just 21-58 (36.8 percent).

Paul Pierce had his top scoring game of the series in Game Five, getting many of his best looks at the basket after being put in a pick-and-roll situation.  In Game Seven, I remember seeing that happen only once.

Did the Celtics really give up 23 offensive rebounds?

Did the Lakers really go to the free throw line 21 times in the fourth quarter?

Did Ray Allen and Ron Artest both shoot the same from three?  Yes, they did (2-7). 

Was Rajon Rondo really two rebounds shy of a triple-double in Game Seven?  He was.  I knew he played better last night, but didn’t think he was that close.  That doesn’t cheer me up at all though.  The Celtics lost.

Game Seven was there for the Celtics to win.  It just did not happen.

With a series, the day after can be that much worse because you also start thinking back over all of the other games.  Where else did it go wrong?

Let's start with the regular season.  Home court was a big deal in the Finals.  I can't help but wonder if Game Seven could have been in Boston had the Celtics not slept-walked through the final four months.

As for the series itself, I keep coming back to Game Three.  In Boston, the Celtics held Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Ron Artest to a combined 53 points on 19-53 shooting (35.8 percent).  And still lost.

That was the game Ray Allen, one game removed from setting an NBA Finals record with eight three-pointers, shot an unthinkable 0-13 from the floor (0-8 from three), finishing with just two points.

It was also the game Derek Fisher scored 16 points and hit every crunch time shot for the Lakers.  Now with Fisher, it is one thing if he scored his points by hitting open threes.  In Game Three, however, Fisher scored every big basket down the stretch for the Lakers by beating guys off the dribble and getting into the paint.

Today I am also thinking about Games One and Six. Game One—how did the Celtics play with so little energy?  I still can’t really believe it.

And Game Six—did the Celtics think LA would roll over just because that is what happened in Game Six in 2008?  Or was the team’s emotion drained from seeing Kendrick Perkins go down with a knee injury?  If that was the case, it is understandable but still inexcusable.  If that makes sense.  

Maybe the worst part of the day after is wondering when this terrible feeling will end?

I don’t know.

Usually, the duration depends on some combination of just how exactly the loss occurred, how important the game was, who the opponent was, and a few other variables.  From all of that, you can tell this one is going to be a doozy.

Well, the Celtics lost a Game Seven in the Finals for the first time in their history last night (had been 7-0).  They lost a Game Seven to the hated Lakers for the first time in their history (had been 4-0).

The Celtics lost a series after leading 3-2 for only the second time in their history.   And oh by the way, the other time was last year.

A win would have given the Celtics two championships in three years and solidified the legacies of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen.  Instead, the loss gives the Lakers back-to-back titles, brings LA within one of Boston’s 17 championships, and enhances the overall standing of Kobe Bryant among the game’s all-time greats.

Before I forget, another thing that is eating at my stomach is that by winning the series, Bryant gets let off the hook for his poor showing in Game Seven, arguably the biggest game of his life.  Because let’s be clear—although Kobe found other ways to contribute (an impressive 15 rebounds) and made his foul shots when they mattered—he did not play well at all last night.  Had the outcome been different, the blame would have been laid directly at his feet. And rightfully so.

However, the Lakers won, and it can be forgotten. That is sports, but when it happens in a situation that benefits a player you don’t like on a team you were raised to not like, it just stinks (I’d like to use a stronger word there, or a few stronger words, but I’d like to keep this at least PG-13).

This is similar to Game Seven of the 2003 ALCS, when Roger Clemens was awful and had to be yanked in the fourth inning, but that was basically forgotten because his team won the game.

I remember feeling terrible for a long time after the Patriots lost the Super Bowl to the Giants.  In fact, the first article I ever wrote for Bleacher Report was about how that was the worst loss I had ever experienced as a Boston sports fan. What finally helped me get over it a little bit—and it still haunts me at times—is that I started to look forward to next season.

That doesn’t work anymore.

First, it backfired with the Patriots.  In Week One of the 2008 season, Tom Brady tore up his knee. Then in 2009, New England got blown out at home in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.  Now the Patriots are not even favored to win their own division. 

It just proves that things can change quickly in sports, and if anything, that situation taught me to never take winning or the chance to win for granted.

With the Celtics, a lot was riding on this season.  Rajon Rondo certainly has a bright future ahead of him, and I have to wonder just how good he can be if he ever develops a consistent jump shot.

But as far as this team, it definitely appears that the window closed on the Big Three era last night, and it was the Lakers who closed it.  To be more exact, the hated Lakers closed the door. 

Garnett, Allen, and Pierce helped bring excitement back to Boston and they brought us a title in 2008. For that, I will always be grateful, and I still look forward to seeing how their careers will wind up. And maybe this group has another run in them. 

But for right now, all I know for certain is that 2010 did not end with a title.  It did not end with a championship parade.  It ended in Los Angeles with the Lakers celebrating at Boston’s expense.

And today, I hate it.  I hate it all. 

Follow Stew Winkel on Twitter at http://twitter.com/stew_winkel


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