THE basketball gods are fickle. But they do know how to put on a good show.
After that “meant to be” point-one-of-a-second miracle put-back by Derrick White in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the energy and storytelling shifted in the direction of Massachusetts.
“Boston in 7” went the Twitter tweets. “Boston gonna beat Miami now. Game over.” Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks predicted.
Even Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra was kinda shook after the insane game outcome. “At this time right now, I don’t know how we’re going to get this done, but we’re going to go up there and get it done. And that’s what the next 48 hours is about,” Spo said in the post-game press conference.
That wild, improbable ending looked like the basketball gods had indeed decreed something wicked for Boston. Not only did Jayson Tatum and company pull off a highly improbable three consecutive wins after being down 3-0 in the series. The very nature of the Derrick White feat seemed to indicate a go-ahead from basketball heaven.
For Miami Heat fans who celebrated too early in Game 6, the Game 6 final score was a total embarrassment.
In Boston, Celtics fans celebrated like they had already won the championship. A fan climbed a street pole and waved his hand in the air. The team watched Boston Red Sox tapes that showed how their baseball counterparts had also pulled off the nearly impossible in 2004 for inspiration. The Red Sox then became the first and only team in Major League Baseball to come back from 0-3 and win a best-of-seven series.
Would the Boston Celtics also make history by being the first NBA team to come back from a 0-3 hole and win in Game 7? Would they keep the momentum of their amazing three straight wins going? Would they make more National Basketball Association history after that one-for-the-books Derrick White miracle? The fact that Game 7 would be played in Boston where the crowd would be at its most rabid and forgiving was itself a nudge in Boston’s direction.
So everybody expected Miami to get a drubbing in Boston. Everybody expected the Cs to totally dominate their division rivals and keep their dreams of Banner 18 alive.
But here’s where the best scriptwriters of the basketball gods stepped in. On the very first play of Game 7, Jayson Tatum landed awkwardly and injured his ankle. Although he stayed in the game and grinned through the pain and discomfort of that freak accident, his injury would handicap the Celtics decisively for the rest of the game.
He could not play his usual defense. That weakness affected the team’s overall defense as a whole. Pressure thus fell on Jaylen Brown’s shoulders to take on the leader role and not just be the talented the co-star. The pressure proved too much. On that game of games, Brown succumbed to pressure by committing eight crucial flaws.
Malcolm Brogdon’s right forearm strain made him less than perfect. Robert Williams too kept throwing up, playing through a stomach virus in Game 7.
These are not Celtics excuses. These are variables injected by the basketball gods into the scenario of perhaps the most interesting Eastern Conference Finals in recent memory.
I’ll say it again. You can’t fight Fate. Destiny is a blind date. Kismet cavorts with Lady Luck to produce the results that have been written in the stars since time immemorial.
“We didn’t play our game from start to finish. Defensively, we just lost it all…Offensively we were scrambled and trying to do everything ourselves..you hate to have that be the end of your season, especially with the fight that we’ve shown,” Celtics forward Grant Williams told ESPN.
And so the Celtics failed to make history in their biggest stage of all. Instead, it was the Miami Heat—the team that clawed out of the play-in tournament to make the playoffs, then toppled each of its opponents one by one that distinguished itself in the record books. They are the first eighth-seeded team to make it to the NBA Finals in 24 years.
The Miami win is also a testament to the genius of Erik Spoelstra and the resilience of his hardy, fighting team. Now the Heat face another team out to make history when the NBA Finals begin on June 2 (Manila time). The Denver Nuggets are in their first ever NBA Finals since they joined the league in 1976.
You must agree. The basketball gods will be busy tinkering with plotlines and unexpected twists once again.