Almost everyone picked the Lakers in six (or seven). That would obviously include myself. How could I not? They rolled through the Western Conference Playoffs, a playoff selection that was one of the toughest in history (all of the teams were 50+ win teams!) and looked to have momentum on their side. They had Phil Jackson, the Zen Master of coaching, whose loss in the 2004 Finals was starting to look like an aberration with the way the guys were rolling. They had Kobe Bryant, who'd been crowned MVP this season, finally, after having several people (including fellow players!) call him the best player in the game for the last four or five years. They had a bench that was so efficient it got its own shirt and nickname. How could they lose?
Oh, but lose they did. It was a little more than a loss, in fact. Marc Stein says it was the league's first six-game sweep which is just depressing to read from a Lakers-fan's point of view. I didn't write about any of this during the playoffs because of a long-held superstition that it is extremely bad luck for me to write about the Lakers during the playoffs (it's a long story, but I still seriously believe that I am 100% responsible for their utter collapse against the Suns in '06) but now that I've had a few days to stew, the pain's not really going away. How could we be so wrong?
I'm not here to take anything away from the Celtics. They whupped the hell out of us and they were clearly the better team. It was depressing to see my team get dismantled so badly. But it was even worse to see that one of the biggest reasons it happened was because of the desire. The Celtics wanted it more. They hustled. They were hungrier.
So my only hope is that this loss will motivate the Lakers. Next year Andrew Bynum will be back. Both Ronny and I hope he'll be back. The main core of the team will be back. This is a young team that just went to the Finals. Can they use that loss as motivation to get back there and get over the hump? Here's to hoping for next year.