Before the 2004 season the friend of mine who really knows ball — the guy who won our fantasy baseball league every year — said he thought that year’s Yankees and Red Sox were the best two teams he had ever seen entering a season. Not the best pair of teams, just the two best. He was right, again, which I’d hate him for if 2004 hadn’t been so damn fun.
People forget this, but in the playoffs that year, the Red Sox fell behind the Yankees 3 games to 0 but came back to win the series 4 games to 3. A little-known fact about that? It was the first and only time that has happened in Major League Baseball history. I mention all this because the Celtics can be the first team in NBA history to pull off the 4-3 comeback tonight against the Miami Heat.
At the risk of oversimplifying all of this and jinxing it, the Red Sox’s experience makes me believe the Celtics will wallop the Heat tonight just as the Sox pounded the Yankees and, to a similar extent, the 2008 Celtics beat the everliving piss out of the Lakers in Game 6. Heat Culture exists and has proven its value several times over, but the talent and age gaps are starting to flex their muscles. Or would, if gaps had muscles.
Of course, in baseball none of this shit is supposed to matter. A good starting pitcher can end momentum in its tracks in a way that’s not true of a runaway train on the basketball court. (I am intentionally mixing metaphors.) The Sox’s win seemed preordained in the same way the Celtics win does, and I’m not supposed to say as much of course, but the Celtics will have a lot more to answer for if it doesn’t happen. The Sox could have easily been stymied.
They weren’t, though, as Kevin Brown had a terrible start and Derek Lowe had a great one and the game only seemed wobbly when Pedro Martinez came in the game just because and gave up two runs because the Yankees seemed to feed off him and only him. Mike Timlin, not so much. The box score was ho-hum, but the entire thing was tense as shit everywhere but the Sox’s dugout.
Obviously these Celtics are still a little headcase-y, but I’ll allow it. I know the hoopheads want to use Jayson Tatum’s experience against him in spite of his age, but we all did the same thing with LeBron and that turned out fine. Tatum is not LeBron but he’s going to be around for so so so many years this will seem like eons ago when it’s all said and done. You gotta be in it to win it, and do that often enough and you’ll win it. This is another chance, and a very good one even if the mighty Nuggets are waiting.
And so that’s the thing that makes all of this different from 2004. The winner of the Sox and Yankees series was expected (correctly, as it turned out) to win it all. You can’t say the same for the Celtics. They’re playing for history tonight, and I suspect they’ll make it. The footsteps in which they’re following are just a lot bigger.