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A new classic

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff June 13, 2008 08:45 AM

What can you say?

You can make an argument, I suppose, for the 2002 comeback against the Nets, maintaining the somewhat valid point that overcoming a 24-point lead in the fourth quarter supersedes taking more than a half to do so.

But based on everything that this game stood for in the NBA Finals, broadcast to a riveted audience across America, the Celtics pulled off a 97-91 comeback win over the Lakers that will be described by those who saw it 10, 20, 25 years from now as probably the best NBA game they have ever watched.

And it was only Celtics-Lakers.

We could shout more conspiracy theory that on the doorstep of an NBA scandal the league delivered enough of a classic to make us put Tim Donaghy away in our sports consciousness drawer for a while, but it’s not worth it. Giddiness reigns in Boston today. The Celtics are going to win the NBA Championship. Maybe Sunday. Maybe Tuesday (imagine the pregame hype for banner No. 17 on the 17th). But oh, it’s going to happen all right.

Before you start retorting with remarks of jinxes and cockiness, ask yourself in honest fashion whether the team that got all the calls Tuesday night and still managed to win by six and then blew an NBA Finals game in historic fashion last night has any chance of winning Games 6 or 7 at the Garden, where the Celtics have lost once this postseason. Any?

There.

Aside from dreadful starts Tuesday in Game 3 and a jaw-dropping, drool-your-Guinness-onto-the-hardwood ineptness in the opening minutes of Game 4, who is rationally going to argue that the Lakers are the better team? As much as we’re wont to criticize Paul Pierce’s decision-making from time to time, the captain followed up his six-point stinker with a 20-point effort that will go down in the annals of Celtics history. Mix that in with Game 1 of this series, Game 7 against the Cavaliers, and sure, the ’02 comeback against the Nets, and suddenly you don’t sound stupid mentioning him in the same breath as a certain Indiana kid. What’s the dif, a title or two?

Just wait a few days.

I watched the game last night in a Harvard Square pub, where one of my party spent much of the pregame espousing how much he liked James Posey’s game, which is fine, if not a little reminiscent of Ted Williams trying to tell folks that Damon Buford was the best hitter on the '99 Sox. Posey then went and pushed in 18, in a Poweian effort that everybody in the establishment appreciated aside from the pair of Lakers fans that incidentally arrived sometime in the third quarter. They sat in the rear and made their presence known with "Kobe" chants, getting a head start on Bryant’s apparent bender in preparation for Game 5.

An hour later -- right around the time of Ray Allen’s nasty move to the hoop -- the blank stares on their faces made me only imagine how Lakers fans in So. Cal. could take this loss any other way than a complete collapse that cost them the championship. How do you in any way try to rationalize what happened last night from a Laker perspective? LA gave its best shot, was thisclose to making it a series again, tying this affair up 2-2, and then ... I guess the best word to sum everything up is, kaplooey.

Here’s how they’re taking last night on the Left Coast:

LA Times: Loss is hard to swallow

Daily Breeze: Hard loss for Lakers to digest

Orange County Register: Lakers trashed second half and hopes

LA Daily News: Lakers dream beginning ends up a nightmare

In that last publication appears a piece by Kevin Modesti from earlier this month in which he tries to argue that the Celtics-Lakers rivalry has hit a generation gap, that the closest thing to a "winner" on the Celtics is (ahem) Sam Cassell, and that they don’t inspire fear and loathing. "Take away the shamrocks, you've got the Orlando Magic," he writes.

Think the man wants a re-do?

For all the clips, highlights, stories, and retrospectives we heard and saw in the week leading up to this matchup, it’s safe to say that last night was the defining moment for a new generation in this rivalry. This was the bridge, the game that the young guns can have as their "Steal by Bird," their "Havlicek stole the ball," their "McHale takes down Rambis."

No longer does anyone 21 and younger have to endure Celtics stories of yore. This was arguably the most entertaining basketball game that we will ever see in the pros. And not only did it come in the NBA Finals, it was Celtics-Lakers. This happens last year with the Spurs and Cavs, and this morning we’re talking about the end of Julio Lugo’s RBI drought.

On the biggest stage the game has, the Celtics stepped up and proved that they’re the best team in the NBA by purely embarrassing the home team Lakers, the media darling heading into this series. They’ve put an end to any more Kobe-Jordan talk for at least one more year. They’ve prevented Phil Jackson from overtaking Red Auerbach. And last night, they pushed the best rivalry in league history to a new level with a comeback that showed determination in a way that rivals every other banner that hangs in the rafters.

They are one win away thanks to a monumental comeback in Los Angeles. It wasn’t just one of the best games in Celtics history, it was one of the best games in Boston history, one that we’ll talk about for 20 years, the same way as we do those Bird-Magic affairs.

"In my day…" tales of the NBA just got updated to yesterday. Game 4 was one to remember, to cherish, and pass down to the next generation, who can only dream of ever witnessing anything as entertaining as we were privy to last night.

27 comments so far...
  1. Does this game finally mean that Sam, who just isn't good enough, will finally watch his last NBA game from the bench? House was a big part of how we got here. What was Rivers thinking before last night? It has been clear from the start of game three that Rondo was a liability, despite his great assist games.

    Posted by Harvie June 13, 08 10:33 AM
  1. --My son is 27; --These are your Celtics kid, mine are back in French Lick-- I would say;

    After last night --: 'These are our Celtics'

    ----Tear your heart out/nasty defense/what does quit mean/--blue collar tough Celtics.

    Posted by Bobby Clendenning June 13, 08 11:01 AM
  1. Need we say more? This is from ESPN:

    ESPN Classic will air the historic 24-point comeback of the NBA Finals, Game 4: Celtics at Lakers, as an INSTANT CLASSIC, Saturday from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. ET.

    Posted by jd June 13, 08 11:20 AM
  1. see you @ the parade people...one man cannot beat a team, no matter how arrogant he may be...defense...guts... & toughness....what a TEAM...go GREEN !!!

    Posted by danny tremblay June 13, 08 11:47 AM
  1. Kobe walked off the court with time still on the clock. Some team player.....
    He also tried one of his stick yer leg out after a 3 point shot, hoping to get a bogus foul call which seemed to go unnoticed by most reports that I've read this morning. Kobe, you are no MJ.

    Posted by Jay June 13, 08 12:17 PM
  1. I couldnt sit down the whole 4th quarter. i turned the game off for a few minutes in the first half to be honest i was so depressed. im 25 and have been a die hard since my dad brought me as a baby to see Bird. this may be the best feeling as a boston sports fan ill ever feel if we win it. im at superbowl win/game 7 vs yanks in 04 excitement about to go over the edge!

    Posted by Alex June 13, 08 12:18 PM
  1. One word for Celtics and their fans: HEART!
    One word for Lakers and their fans: CHOKE!

    Posted by Jamey June 13, 08 12:22 PM
  1. In Game 4 we ripped out the L.A. hearts. In Game 5 we go for their soul!

    Posted by Conrad Balagtas June 13, 08 12:25 PM
  1. Sweat Blood and Tears...34 MVP

    Posted by Alex June 13, 08 12:44 PM
  1. Let's not forget what an awesome series Ray Allen is been having. Ever time the camera pans on his face, he has that "give me the ball, so I put another dagger in your heart" look that I have rarely seen since a certain blond haired kid headed back to Indiana....

    Posted by Mike Sockol June 13, 08 01:14 PM
  1. Is Artis Gilmore still on the C's? If not, I think old Artis should get an honorary spot on the C's bench to inspire Scal should the C's fall into foul trouble and Scal gets the call. In fact, I think Artis and Scal should team up for classic 'buddy movie" where Artis is the "Stern, serious police captain" and Scal is the "Bumbling do gooder". Maybe the move could be a remake of the classic Jay Leno and Pat Morita (RIP Pat) cop movie called "Kuffs" or something like that.

    Posted by Dino Radja June 13, 08 01:26 PM
  1. Pierce equal to Bird? Keep dreaming. He constantly forces passes and shots. When he passes, the ball appears to be a medicine ball it looks so heavy. Many of his passes put teammates in a bad position. This does not get reflected in the box score. He needs to score 20 just to make up for all his mistakes and turnovers.

    Posted by BTM June 13, 08 01:50 PM
  1. Wow, BTM. You can say he's not as good as one of the top 5 players ever, but way to tear Pierce down.

    Harvie, I don't think Rondo was a liability at all before his injury. They did win the first two games with him as the PG, remember.

    Posted by J-Bone June 13, 08 02:06 PM
  1. Leave it to Harvie to not see the glass OVERFLOWING, but to see it filled with bile.

    Hey, Harvie...the Celtics WON the game with EVERYONE contributing...all the buttons Doc pushed were the RIGHT buttons...the team, which was a decided underdog, is about to win a Championship under Doc's sure-handed guidance, and they might do it in FIVE games...ON THE ROAD.

    Hello!?!?!?! ENJOY the moments here, Harvie. It doesn't get better than this. Well, it will with one more win, but, I guess you'll find ways to criticize Doc Rivers and others when that eventuality occurs, too.

    Wow. Talk about not being able to please some people!!!!!

    Posted by Matt Talvi June 13, 08 04:12 PM
  1. Remind me not to invite BTM to my next Christmas party.

    Posted by owenz June 13, 08 04:18 PM
  1. pass the word the CELTS ARE BACK, BUT WE NEED TO RESIGN POSEY AND HOUSE, CELTS, SOX, AND REALLY THE PATS AS WELL, BEST YEAR IN BEANTOWN SPORTS EVER, BEAT LA BEAT LA, WHAT A SWEET SOUND.

    Posted by PAUL KELLY June 13, 08 04:37 PM
  1. wow that was a great game. not from beantown myself i am a fan of the game and certainly of KG, Paul and Ray. they seem to get theirs night in and night out, but posey and house stepped up bigtime when they needed it. Doc is the new master, and i can not wait to watch kobe and all the boston doubters eat it! go Boston!!

    Posted by vince June 13, 08 05:13 PM
  1. Excuse me, children.
    Please let's no gloat about the last win, nor talk about how this is classic Celtics, until it is signed, sealed and delivered.

    I guess this is what happens when you have bloggers (hey, what's the emoticon for rolling your eyes and shaking your head in disbelief?)

    Real fans don't need to talk smack, especially before it is over.

    How quickly we forget the 19-0 (oops) Pats?

    Posted by lhjraffe June 13, 08 05:22 PM
  1. Um, the 'steal by Bird' occurred against the Pistons, not the Lakers.

    Posted by J.R. June 13, 08 05:31 PM
  1. This was a great comeback but not so much a great game. It is, as has already been noted - one for the ages. I didn't see Havelich steal the ball but I saw Bird do it and this game certainly had the sort of heroics and gutsy play that great Celtics teams of the past have had. KG, Pierce and Allen are not Bird, McHale and Parish but their pretty damn good and they have proved WITHOUT A DOUBT that they deserve to be thought of as a legitimate part of the Celtics history because they have shown the same qualities and character as those teams. Often THAT is the difference between a Champion and a "also ran" (yes I'm talking to you Kobe)
    Without taking anything away from the Celtics and this amazing accomplishment (the best I've seen) what this game really exposed was what a bunch of frauds and fakers their opponent was.
    And especially what incredible myopia the pundits, analysts and "experts" have - despite the overwhelming evidence that the Celtics are a FAR better team. The Fakers are no competition for Boston and the Celtics have been basically been able to win "at will".
    Come on, who comes back from a 24 point deficit in the Finals and ON THE ROAD. No one - that's who! It's unprecedented. And it shows once and for all in full color who the better team is. I would argue this is bigger than the 2004 ALCS comeback for the Sox simply because it happened in the biggest game on the biggest stage in the service of the quest for a World Championship. This was a spirit shattering loss, a stultifying defeat in a game the Fakers should never have lost.
    The Fakers are one guy and a bag of bodies. The Celtics are a team.
    All hail the new heroes of Boston sports and Celtics history! The champions are coming home soon.
    .

    Posted by Ghost of the Lakers June 13, 08 05:43 PM
  1. whoa, kiddos, calm down a wee bit, will ye!

    How quickly they forget. The Lakers came within 2 in Game 2 in a mirror image comeback, and thankfully couldn't get over the hump. People talking smack to Lakers fans, tell this to yourselves ten times: "There but for the grace of god go I."

    Posted by Not over yet June 13, 08 05:52 PM
  1. Prevented Jackson from overtaking Red? The series isn't over. If I had to put down money, I'd bet we'll see #17 hoisted to the rafters but let's not count out the Lakers.

    No team has come back from a 3-1 deficit to win in the finals? Well, no team had ever staged the comeback we saw last night either.

    As we saw last night, the improbable does happen.

    If the Celtic players and coaches believe it's over, they'll lose for sure.

    Posted by paul liu June 13, 08 06:20 PM
  1. The Fakers are toast. Don't kid yourself. They are done. The Celtics had no right to win last night but they did because they are FAR FAR BETTER.

    Posted by Ghost of the Lakers June 13, 08 06:44 PM
  1. What was the comment in the Antelope Valley Press?

    Posted by Docc June 13, 08 07:00 PM
  1. I podcast the Celtics and the range of emotions that I felt last night will never leave me. Twas a great life lesson: tune in, turn it up, and take
    'em out!!! My goodness!!!

    Posted by imsointoyoudotcom June 13, 08 08:46 PM
  1. We Celtic fans have every reason to believe that banner #17 will hang from the rafters this year. And what a season it has been! At the root of it all is that our team recognizes that there is no " I " in team. They play unselfishly, bolster each other, motivate each other. However, having been a fan for longer than I care to say, we all know that "it ain't over til it's over", so sit back and enjoy the ride. Let the Laker's try, but it has to have become obvious, even to them, this is not going to end well for them. Celtic Pride will prevail once again.

    Posted by Grandycarol June 14, 08 09:37 AM
  1. Reality check...great opponents make great victors. Would you rather have had the Celtics won all for by 30 points...boring. Ray Allen carried the team.

    Posted by Mac Olson June 14, 08 09:52 AM
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