Game 4 WHAT?!

by June 13, 2008

Last night was interesting. Also interesting is thinking how close this series is to being 3-1 Lakers. Only it’s not.

Which is fun.

Some things that occured to me in the wake of this madness…

-How come no one talks about the danger of the huge first-quarter lead? I have absolutely no statistical data to back this up, and I’m not even recalling a lot of anecdotal evidence at the moment, but I’m certain of my point: Big early leads set teams up for disaster.

Think about it. If it’s a close game through the first half and then you somehow go up 10 or 12 late in the third, that’s a huge psychological advantage. You’ve got the momentum, you’re starting to pull away, and the other team feels like the game is getting away from them. It’s borderline panic-time. But if you’re up 24 in the first half, and then your lead is whittled down to 10 or 12 late in the third, suddenly YOU’RE the one panicking. You start to feel helpless, and you get away from the things that got you this huge lead in the first place. It seems like pretty basic psychology, and anyone who watches the NBA on a regular basis understands this.

It’s different in the playoffs, too. Not that it doesn’t happen in the regular season, but we’ve all seen enough games where teams get down big early and find an excuse to coast to the finish (unless they’re playing an early-mid ’00s Knicks team in the midst of a Patented Fourth-Quarter Collapse™.) But in the postseason, with the stakes so much higher, great teams don’t give up. It almost happened to Boston in Game 2, and it sure as hell happened to L.A. last night. I think if I were an NBA coach, I wouldn’t let my team go up by more than 12 in the first half of any playoff game. It’s not worth the stress.

-Remember how Phil famously accused young Kobe of “sabotaging” games to keep them close and set up his own late-game heroics? Think maybe KB’s doing the same thing to this series? I’m not saying it’s likely, but as always, I put nothing past Mr. Bean.

-Speaking of Kobe: His legacy is up in the air right now a little bit, huh? I don’t mean his legacy as a great, great player, but his legacy as THAT dude. Shooting a combined 15-of-45 in Games 1 and 4… well, it’s not particularly Jordan-esque is all I’m saying.

Also: “Bryant acts entitled because he is entitled.” Maybe not today, though.

-A few weeks back I made some ridiculous comment about how the Celtics have three possible Hall of Famers on their roster: KG, Pierce, and Tony Allen. Sorry, I meant Ray. Regardless, some of you thought I might as well have meant Tony for how absurd my statement was. Well, let’s revisit, shall we?

Garnett’s HOF status is obviously pretty untouchable, and Pierce — a Celtic lifer and captain who will, it looks like, end up with at least one ring to go with his terrific career stats and many instances of clutch play — will be that much closer to an HOF lock if Boston closes this thing out. And Ray Ray? As crazy as it seemed when he was shooting -8 percent against the Cavs, dude’s arguably been the Celtics’ best player in this series: Leading scorer (20 ppg) through four games, hitting a fairly ridiculous 52 percent from the field, including 48 percent from three, along with 6 boards, 1.2 steals, and stretches of surprisingly effective defense on that Bryant guy. If he keeps it up, dude’s got a pretty great shot at Finals MVP. And if he does THAT? Call it the James Worthy scenario: Big Game was always gonna be a borderline Hall of Famer, but his ridiculous play in the ’87-88 Finals — including the first Game 7 triple-double in Finals history — earned him Finals MVP, which looked awfully good when HOF folks were checking his resume a few years back. This has nothing to do with anything. I’m just saying.

So, yeah. Ray Allen. He’s an actor, too.

-And speaking of ’87-88… There’s been lots of talk and blogging and whatnot about how this season might be the best in NBA history. I’m gonna go ahead and squash that right now.

A few years back, SLAM did a one-off special issue on how 1988 was the greatest year in NBA history. Like every one-off special issue Slam does (or, I suppose, like every issue every magazine has ever published), this was done primarily to make our publisher money. But it was also a cool chance for those poor saps on the editorial side (like me) to revisit the League’s golden age. A few more years removed, and compared to this just-about-completed ’07-08 season, ’87-88 gleams even more brightly.

Briefly: The ’87-88 Lakers are better than the ’07-08 Lakers. The ’87-88 Pistons are better than the ’07-08 Celtics. The ’87-88 MVP was better than the ’07-08 MVP. The ’87-88 playoffs had moments (Bird v. Nique, Isiah’s bum ankle Game 6, Worthy’s triple-double Game 7) that far overshadow anything we’ve seen in ’07-08. The ’87-88 Finals were one of the best in League history. The ’07-08 Finals will have to go bat-sh*t crazy over the next three games to come close.

This has been a great season, but this stupid VH-1 inspired “Best Season Ever!” nonsense has got to stop. Because it’s not.