LOS ANGELES — It probably goes without saying, but it’s practically a day of mourning out here in Los Angeles.
On a day where the morning smog seemed to burn off a little earlier than usual, there’s little sunshine on Laker fans following a devastating Game 4 collapse that allowed the Celtics to steal a 97-91 victory and take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
The LA Times’ front page led with a simple, “Lakers Fall Apart” headline and Bill Plaschke’s column suggests the Lakers didn’t choke, they simply blew the NBA Finals.
They didn’t choke.
By definition, when one chokes, there is noise, movement, desperation.
The Lakers didn’t choke.
They blew the NBA Finals without making a sound.
They botched their entire season while standing still.
They lost a 24-point lead — the biggest collapse in the NBA Finals in at least 37 years — by staring dreamily into the hardened eyes of a Boston Celtics team that angrily shoved them into next fall.
Choke? On Thursday night in front of a Staples Center crowd whose early cheers lapsed into a stunned and horrified silence, the Celtics’ 97-91 victory was more like a smote.
The LA Daily News splashed with a wittier, “Purple and Fold” headline. Columnist Steve Dilbeck says this one will linger with the Lakers for a long time.
A game that will haunt forever.
That will come back in the Lakers’ nightmares to their dying days, which right about now is something they should feel painfully close to.
The team with the bigger heart, the greater poise, won Thursday night, the Celtics overcoming a 24-point second-quarter deficit to stun, humble and even embarrass the Lakers 97-91 in Game 4 at Staples Center.
And make no mistake, it’s over. These Finals are all over. Only the final date on the death certificate awaits.
The Celtics ripped the Lakers’ hearts out Thursday. Left them cursing into the night, staggering off the floor, wondering how it could have possibly all slipped away.
Boston leads the series 3-1 and is secure in knowing this: No team in NBA history has every blown a 3-1 Finals lead. Not in the previous 61 years.
“It’s not over,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “This series is not over.”
Only numerically. Otherwise, the Celtics won their title Thursday with their trip back from death. With a gutsy performance that will enter the ranks of some of their historic greats.
The Orange County Register’s front page returned a “Page Not Found” error this morning. That’s probably best for the sanity of Laker fans.