As soon as the final buzzer sounded, I knew I would remember this game for the rest of my life. When my children are playing sports and get down about playing poorly, I'll tell them stories about this game. When I'm feeling overwhelmed and overworked, I'll think about this game. When a friend is feeling low and comes to me for some words of encouragement, I'll draw inspiration from this game.
It is very fitting that this game occurred in Hollywood, because you really couldn't script it any better. I hate to fall back on an old cliché, but this really was just like any fight from a Rocky movie.
They took such a beating early on that it was painful to watch. Every time they got a few punches in (to pull within 15), the Lakers would strike back (to push it back to 20). Kobe was spreading the ball around, getting his teammates involved; all the things that make everyone talk about the "new, improved Kobe." Lamar Odom even showed up. It was working to perfection.
You could almost picture the trainer reaching for the white towel. Except Doc Rivers wouldn't let his team panic. He looked them in the eye and told them to keep their composure and to get stops. On this night, he was a Championship motivator. A Championship coach.
They went back to what worked all year. Defense and teamwork. They got critical stops and converted on the other end. Once they started getting momentum, you could feel it building like a rolling thunderstorm. This is where Rocky, seemingly near death, would have found some hidden reserve. He would start swinging wildly, making his opponent stagger back with shock in his eyes. The Lakers played with shock and a little bit of fear, and they had every reason to. There was no denying the Celtics on this night.
The only thing I feared was the team running out of gas after fighting so hard to come back (like the Lakers did in game 2). The great thing is that everyone worked together in the clutch. Pierce carried them for long stretches (limiting Kobe and converting near impossible buckets). Garnett hit some clutch shots (once again shutting up his critics). Posey (who shall henceforth on this blog be referred to as "Big Game James") hit dagger three pointers. Eddie House made the difference that we all thought he could. And then the final nail in the coffin was Ray Allen's stutter-step, blow-past-annoying-Sasha, reverse layup. Knockout. Game over.
They never gave up on each other. They trusted each other and carried each other. They played with Ubuntu. Together they found the strength to do what seemed impossible. What a team.
One win away from Banner 17.