Game 6: Redemption
It wasn’t supposed to happen. It’s important to remember that after a night as pitch-perfect as last evening. It’s easy to forget that three all-stars, two kids, and a bench full of veteran castoffs and second round draft picks wasn’t supposed to do this. And the coach, don’t forget the coach, who was supposed to be the weak link.
They’re fine, as long as Doc doesn’t screw it up. How many times have you heard that in the last two months?
It’s hard to remember in the warm embrace of yet another championship, (and really how lucky are we, anyway?) that this was not supposed to happen. Three all-stars never work. An NBA Championship team simply does not go seven games with Atlanta. LeBron James. Detroit is too tough. The Lakers in 5.
Ray Allen is done. Kaput. All finished. Wasn’t everyone writing that a couple of weeks ago? Paul Pierce won’t want to share the limelight. That’s what people whispered back in September. Kevin Garnett is a fake franchise player.
It’s important to remember all that because last night’s Game 6 tied everything up so neatly that it’s easy to forget.
It turns out than an NBA Championship team can figure it out as it goes along, and it turns out that Doc Rivers can coach a little bit. Just before the fourth quarter started I got a text from my colleague, Jason Feifer. It said, “If Phil Jackson leaves now he can beat the traffic to Logan.” Zen, it seems, was powerless against the pull of Ubuntu.
It turns out that Ray Allen is nowhere near done. Ask Sahsa Vujacic, if he can find Ray coming off those screens. It turns out that Paul Pierce liked being one of the fellas just fine, and he didn’t even have to give up one inch of the spotlight. Not after outplaying Kobe.
It turns out that Kevin Garnett will never have to apologize, not that he ever did, for the way he plays. Ever.
We learned all that last night and it played out so perfectly with Pierce winning the MVP, with Allen going off in the fourth quarter, and with Garnett being so freaking dominant. The crowd, oh man the crowd, got to cheer for everything one more time. They got to chant Edd-ie, Edd-ie when Eddie House (folk hero) chased down another loose ball. They got to marvel at Dr. James Posey reaching deep into his bags of tricks and performing open-heart surgery on the Lakers, not that they showed any.
We knew all that by the time the fourth quarter started, actually. So, with all the important matters settled, the crowd got to show their appreciation for Johnny Most and Red Auerbach when the in-house Garden camera lingered over the microphone left over for Most and the No. 2 retired for Red.
The crowd got to light up cigars, because Red would have wanted it that way, and live the moments that they only remember from watching ESPN Classic. The older ones got to be reminded of the time when this was a habit. When Russell and Havlicek and then Bird got to do this every spring. And they got to give it up for Gino one more time.
I’m trying to remember all that as I type this out in my apartment. It’s just after 3 in the morning. It took me a couple of hours to get home after all the interviews were done and Brian Scalabrine decided that he needed a little podium time. Scal bumped Kobe, by the way. Imagine that.
I exited the Garden a little before 1 a.m. and found all of Causeway St. blocked off. I asked a cop who told me it might be a good idea to head for the bridge and see if I could get a cab. He meant the Longfellow, I guess. And then I bumped into an old friend from Philly who steered me toward the media shuttle. That might work.
There were still a lot of people out, but my friend assured me this was nothing. “They shot at us in Detroit.” My friend is wise. Our shuttle took off on a long winding journey through the streets of Boston past more people still celebrating.
“I’m happy for Pierce,” I told my pal. “He knew that his whole legacy as a Celtic was on the line. He deserves this.”
That was when we got to Chinatown, before we finally made it to the Sheraton, and I got a cab back to Cambridge where it is completely quiet and I’m trying to figure out what it all means.
This is what I think. We’ll remember this one like the first Patriots Super Bowl. We can’t put it up there with the Red Sox in 2004 because that would be blasphemy. But this one will live, and it needs to be remembered the way it really happened.