By Sterling Pingree
Here is how predictable Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals was: Kevin Love, Brad Stevens, Jaylen Brown, Mark Paulette, Jeff Solari and myself all predicted what would happen. Kevin Love said that Lebron would have a huge game. Brad Stevens said he expected Lebron to have a monster game. Mark Paulette put the Lebron over/under on points at 37; Jeff and I both took the over. The degree to which this game was scripted like Wrestlemania ahead of time was predictable with such scary accuracy that on the show I wrote down what I thought Lebron James’ stat line would be:
Predicted stat line- 41 points, 9 rebounds, 12 assists and 2 blocks
Actual stat line- 42 points, 10 rebounds, 12 assists and 2 blocks
With this prediction, I added the caveat that I still thought the Celtics would win the game because I just don’t see anybody from Cleveland stepping up. Korver put up 11 points off the bench, but was the only Cavaliers reserve that didn’t sleep through the game. In addition to Lebron and Korver, Kevin Love was the only Cav to reach double figures. As the series shifts to Cleveland, the questions becomes: what now? What can the Cavaliers do to take games 3 and 4 at home? And make no mistake, that’s what the Cavs have to do, they have to win BOTH games at home because if the Celtics win one game, they’ll end this series at game 5 at the Garden where they are 9-0 in the playoffs thus far.
It seems easy to say that all the Celtics have to do is split on the road and they’ll win the series, but when you break it down it’s not quite so easy. If the Celtics lose game 3, the dreaded momentum shift will be front page headlines and it’s true, if Lebron has any signs of life there is reason to panic. A game 3 loss and the pressure mounts on the Celtics young shoulders, because then each game means more than the last. A 2-1 lead with game 4 on the road and you risk getting into the deep water of a 2-2, game 5 in Boston, which with game 6 in Cleveland then becomes a must win for the Celtics.
For all the bluster and bravado that Boston fans are known for during this golden age of success, we’ll always have those scars of the Red Sox 86 years, the first 40 years of the Patriots, the Celtics post-Bird and Bruins post-Orr droughts. Deep down we still can see the worst coming, even though to convey so much would come off as such false modesty that we’ve embraced the role of the one who wears the black hat. But that’s why this Celtics run has been so enjoyable, because it was unexpected after this carnival ride of a season. Boston has been contenders, favorites, 1-year away, lost causes and now they’re back amongst the final 4 teams in the league.
The Celtics have been underdogs in their last 7 games. Even after the Mother’s Day massacre in game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavs were still 1-point favorites in game 2. Something about Boston not being Goliath feels good, something about not being the favorite feels familiar. Perhaps it’s the lack of expectation, teams were lining up to get the 7th seed in the East so they could pick the carcass of a dead Celtics team, but as we’ve seen over the past month, rumors of the Celtics death are greatly exaggerated.
Sterling Pingree (@SterlingPingree on Twitter) is a co-host on The Drive, weekdays 4pm to 6pm on 92.9fm The Ticket and streaming live at DriveShowMaine.com. Follow us on Twitter, @DriveShowMaine and “Like Us” on Facebook, Drive Show Maine.