We've been here before. We recognize these symptoms.
Things should look awful familiar to Celtics fans heading into tonight's Game 4 against the Cleveland Cavliers at the Q. Two dominant defensive performances at home. Two Celtics victories in the comfy confines of the Garden. The C's hop a plane, but leave their luggage, which apparently holds their collective hearts.
We thought it was just an ATL thing. A young, upstart team with the REAL fair-weather fans catching playoff fever and turning the normally patchy Hawks crowd into rabid fanatics. Philips Arena, a place in the regular season where you could hear a pin drop, became a House of Horrors for the Celtics. We watched the games. Whether we like it or not, that crowd matched the Garden's intensity in the three games in Atlanta, and their young, emotional team fed off of it.
By the time Game 3 in Cleveland rolled around, with all of the media hype of the three road losses, the Celtics have developed a complex. I don't know if they are home sick, or road sick, but this team has caught something. Agoraphobia. Call the doctor.
Not that Doc, either. This team needs a second opinion.
How did this happen? How did the best road team in basketball develop Hoops Agorophobia? Clearly it's an airborne disease, tales of their road deficiencies spreading like an epidemic across the airwaves. Every round ball talking head is diagnosing the Celtics with this condition. With every Ray Allen air ball, it gets worse.
It's not like it's just the Celtics. This Hoops Agoraphobia is going around. Only the Detroit Pistons have won a road game in the second round. It even infected the Hawks in the last series. Everyone said that the C's couldn't win on the road, and couldn't lose at home. Atlanta didn't even show up for Game 7, resigned to their terminal prognosis.
Cleveland clearly saw it coming. After a Game 1 heartbreaker and a Game 2 blowout, most teams would be crushed heading into Game 3. Cleveland was as confident as could be. The Cavs watched the first series, they spotted the symptoms. The hoop must have looked like a hot tub to the Cleveland shooters. Wally Szczerbiak turned into Ray Allen. Ray Allen turned into Allen Ray. Joe Smith turned into Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Kendrick Perkins turned into ... well, he pretty much played exactly like he always plays. In the end it was another road rout, with the Celtics on the short end. Prophecy self-fulfilled.
Normally, this wouldn't be that big of a deal. The home team winning the first game at home after losing two on the road. Did anyone expect the C's to sweep the defending Eastern Conference champions? Ahh, but since we haven't won on the road yet this postseason, people look to Boston's growing Agoraphobia. We CAN'T win on the road. The whole thing is starting to make me sick.
But there is good news.
In sports, unlike in real life, these illnesses are never terminal. Ask long-time chronic choking survivors Peyton Manning, Gary Payton, or your Boston Red Sox. Ask the new CEO of Chumps-to-Champs, Inc., Eli Manning. It doesn't take much to eradicate any sports-related disease, be it chronic choking, Agoraphobia, or what have you. It only takes one win. That's it! You don't even have to finish the whole prescription!
If the Celtics win tonight, the "Boston can't win a game on the road" tag is out the window. The Celtics are up 3-1 and heading home. Most importantly, this case of Hoops Agoraphobia will be cured.