Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Showdown

"We did what we had to do"

"Just taking care of business"

"This was a game we should have won"

These and other variations are common cliches that we often hear players and coaches say. But this is not really what you heard on Christmas day. In fact, our postgame interview consisted of a smiling and downright giddy Kobe Bryant acknowleding the enormous victory. Before a parade erupts in downtown Los Angeles celebrating the Lakers' impressive and significant win over the visiting Boston Celtics, allow me (who else?) to put some perspective on today's huge showdown.

This was a game booked on Christmas Day. The Lakers were the favored home team. Instead of scheduling the game on the home court of the defending champions, the NBA schedule makers did us all a favor by placing the marquee matchup at Staples Center.

Why did they 'do us all a favor,' you ask? If this game was in Boston, the Celtics would have most probably won as usual. This would have been no surprise at all, as the Celtics went 3-0 against the Lakers in Boston just six months ago during the 2008 NBA Finals. But the game was not in Boston, it was in Los Angeles. This gave the game more meaning.

If the Celtics managed to pull out another victory at Staples Center, they would have extended their winning streak to 20 and beyond, confirming the common thought that they are indeed the best team in basketball this year. If the Celtics won, there would no longer be any more arguments. The Lakers have Bynum. The Lakers have a healthy Ariza. They still have the best player in the world. The Lakers had the game on their turf. The Celtics lost Posey. No wheelchair antics. No bigtime questionable calls. No excuses. If the Celtics won, it would have been over. The Celtics are still better, end of story. The NBA season would no longer be fun for us to watch and talk about endlessly.

Thankfully, the Lakers won, and now fans around the world can continue the great fun of following the league without knowing a predictable finish would come true for sure. Remember, the brilliance of sports is the mystery of the final outcome.

So we can analyze the basketball part of it. We can talk about how the Lakers rose to the occassion, how Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol made amends after their well documented performances this past June. We can talk about how the Lakers brilliantly adjusted to the Celtics swarming defense of Kobe Bryant. We can talk about how the game was tied up with just a few minutes to go and could have gone either way. But for now, let us rejoice in the fact that the Lakers won a game that they should have won. This gives us hope that things will, at the very least, remain interesting moving forward as we finally begin the signficant part of the NBA season.

I just marked my calendar, because the Lakers visit Boston on February 4 on TNT.