“BEAT LA! BEAT LA! BEAT LA! BEAT LA!”

Ah, now this sure smells like championship basketball to me. Boston came back from a ten-point deficit with ten minutes to play in the game and put the clamps on Detroit, pulling away with a huge 89-81 Game Six win in Detroit to advance to the NBA Finals. The Celtics and the Lakers, the two greatest, most successful franchises in professional basketbal history meet in the NBA Finals for the 11th time, with the Celtics having an 8-2 record against LA. To me, this harks back to my teenage years, when I loved both Boston and the 76ers, and rooted hard for both of them against Los Angeles, for whom I always had tremendous respect. There was nothing like watching the Celtics clinch the Eastern Conference title and hearing the very loud, very raucous Boston Garden faithful start up the “BEAT LA! BEAT LA! BEAT LA!” chants before the final Eastern Conference final game had ended, like a public lighting of Red Auerbach’s cigar, which the legendary coach would do back in the day when smoking in public buildings was not only allowed, but encouraged. The “BEAT LA!” chants would grow to such a cacophonous cascade that it would drown out the CBS announcers. It announced the impending Finals match-up with all the sound and fury that the games themselves would bring.

The best thing of all was those classic Finals between Boston and Los Angeles never, ever disappointed, even when LA beat Boston. Those series were furious clashes between teams that held nothing back, that hammered away at each other, that relentlessly attacked each other offensively and defensively, that put absolutely everything they had into winning, that played at a breakneck pace, that provided basketball and sports fans with by far the greatest rivalry in sports in the 1980s, in my humble opinion. There was nothing like Celtics-Lakers in the 1980s. The two greatest teams loaded with talent and confidence, supported by great, loyal, and very loud fans, and putting on great basketball exhibitions time in and time out.

It’s debatable whether or not the NBA needs this matchup, since it’s a very successful and heavily marketed league despite some duds in recent Finals. Yet there is no doubt that the NBA–and a good deal of its fans–wanted this. Like the 1980s, these are the two best teams. Like the 1980s, these teams have depth. Like the 1980s, these teams have superstars and flashy players. Like the 1980s, these teams play both ends of the floor. Like the 1980s, these teams present intriguing match-ups at every position, including the coaches. This Finals will have the league, networks, and media positively salivating.

As a Celtics and basketball fan, I cannot wait until Thursday night. This is the first time since 1987 that Boston has been in the Finals, the last time Boston and LA met in the finals when LA won 4 games to 2 against a game but physically battered Boston team that lacked depth. My belief is that 2008 won’t end up as 1987 did, in no small part because Boston holds home court. Boston in 7, playing a record 27 playoff games to win its 17th title.

Does KG play against Gasol or Odom? Does Pierce guard Kobe? Whose bench will play better? How will Radmanovic and Rondo–important but supplementary players–fare in the Finals? Will Ray Allen play a more consistent series than he has in much of the playoffs thus far? Will the Celtics play at the faster tempo that they can and at which they often excel, or will the slow it down a bit and grind the Lakers down defensively since LA also loves the up-tempo game? Lots of questions to answer starting next week. Either way, Boston should be thankful that it’s getting several days to rest, given they’ve played 102 regular-season and playoff games.

This is going to be good.

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Published in: on May 30, 2008 at 10:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

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