Red Sox v. Rays, 6:05 pm. With last night's victory, the Sox are back where they belong atop the AL East. Hurrah! The Sox look to seal the deal tonight as Jon Lester (3-3, 3.67) faces righty James Shields (4-3, 3.24) who at 26 is the crotchety old man of the Rays' starting rotation. It's hard to root against the Rays, who have been a welcome feel-good story in the aftermath of the Mitchell report shenanigans, but like... go home, kids. Enough messing around. Seriously, a win tonight would mean a 1.5-game lead heading into a series with the Mariners and would thus ideally put us in very nice shape for a while to come. Let's do this, boys!
Celtics v. Lakers, 9:00 pm. So I finally figured out recently why the NBA makes us wait a whole week before the NBA Finals start.
Someone asked me on Monday how I thought this series would turn out. I knew what I wanted to say. "Lakers in 6. Lakers in 6. Lakers in 6." That's what I thought, and that's what seemed reasonable without being either too doom-and-gloom or too pie-in-the-sky. It was what I was thinking, you know? And I figured it was probably right. But I felt like I couldn't NOT predict a win for my team, even though I really didn't think we could win it. I bit my lip, and instead, in a totally half-assed gesture of fandom, I said:
"Celtics in 7."
Fuck, I wanted it to be true so bad. But the hesitation with which I said it betrayed me, and my friend laughed. "You don't really think that," he said. It was both a dismissal and an accusation: not only are you deliberately predicting something unlikely to happen, he seemed to be saying, but you don't even have the courage of your convictions. And I felt really fucking lame. He was right, dammit. If I'm going to make counter-intuitive predictions like that, I should at least have some HEART behind them, you know? No one who's a true sports fan ever mocks the cockamamie predictions of the rabid believers if they sense a genuine belief behind them. But here I was, trying my best to be the kind of true believer fan I've always aspired to be, and utterly failing in the process. I felt ashamed.
It's been four days now -- four days of endlessly poring over every Celtics article I can get my hands on; four days of starting and then scrapping this very preview; four days of sleeping curled up next to my Paul Pierce jersey. I might be completely fucking nuts at this point. But you know what?
I finally believe that we can win this thing.
That's it. It's done. I'm sold. I honest to god and from the very depth of my soul believe that we can beat the (goddamn) Lakers and hang #17 from the rafters of the Garden. After all this time, I'm finally where I wanted to be, and I'm not looking back for a second.
Sure, we beat the Lakers twice this year, both by comfortable margins -- but both of those wins came before the Grizzlies traspassa Pau Gasol (yeah, bitch, that's Catalán for "traded." HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW) and the Lakers became, in essence, an entirely different team. So we've never faced these Lakers before. and that's a bit scary. But guess what? They've never faced us before, either, and that's something. These Lakers haven't been to the Garden. These Lakers haven't felt the might of a Paul Pierce playoffs game. These Lakers haven't seen Kevin "Behold, I Am Your God-King" Garnett when he decides to crash the boards and take everyone in his path down with him. Fuck, these Lakers haven't even seen Ray Allen when he decides to get going. These Lakers are superdupernastygood, and I'm not stupid enough to try and tell you otherwise. Don't look at their 2008 playoffs stats for too long -- I just made that mistake, and now I kind of want to go curl up in the corner and eat pudding until the middle of July just so it will all go away. But all I'm saying is: they may be good, but so are we. And that's why we're here. And that's why anyone who's written off the Celtics already is making a huge mistake.
It's the essence of being a fan that you sometimes need to put aside what you think will happen and just give over all of your mental energy to what you want to happen. I'm donning the green tonight with pride. I'm proud my team is here, and I want us to win with every nervous, tweaked out fiber of my heart. Fuck the odds. And, more to the point, fuck LA. This is our time.
Frivolous prop bet of the night: Sam Cassell makes the late-night news across the country after being caught on camera referring to Pau Gasol as "that French dude."
Serious prediction of the night: Celts by 6. Yup.