Yesterday, a 5.7 earthquake centered near Ocotillo, California could be felt as far away as Los Angeles.
Turns out it was just a foreshock.
Tonight, the Boston Celtics were hit by a Lakers rolling motion that wouldn't quit, leading to a 22-point blowout by the home team and setting up one final showdown for all the marbles in the City of Angels.
If Mother Nature hadn't clued them into the fact that they weren't in Kansas anymore, Toto, and far, far away from the friendly confines and stable ground of Boston, the Lakers certainly gave notice of that fact tonight.
Lakers fans immediately exulted in the thrill of victory and the temporary comfort of relief, but all this game did was wipe out all the work the Celtics and Lakers put in to get to this point.
After 101 games for the Lakers and 102 for the Celtics, the counter is reset to one. The winner of Thursday's game gets the Larry O'Brien Trophy. Second prize is a set of steak knives.
In addition, only one of these teams will have the the latest word in the the only East Coast-West Coast throwdown older than Biggie vs. Tupac (whose proxies P-Diddy and Snoop Dogg even made both made it to the game tonight).
Kansas City Star writer Jason Whitlock tweeted during the game: "Is this a bad 7-game series? Has there been a classic game? My memory is bad."
He's right. This has been a series with great moments: Ray Allen's Finals-record seven-of-seven from three-point land in one half, Fisher's fourth-quarter flurry, Shrek and Donkey, Pierce's touchdown pass to Rondo, and Shannon Brown's flying circus in this latest game.
Fans are still waiting for that great game , though.
Given the stakes in Game Seven and the sometimes tight and intense play of both teams, especially at the ends of Games Three and Five in Boston, the potential for that kind of game exists. Both teams just have to show up for all 48 minutes of it.
After the Game Five loss, Kobe Bryant said, "Just man up and play. What the hell is the big deal? I don’t see it as a big deal. If I have to say something to them, then we don’t deserve to be champions. We’re down 3-2, go home, win one game, go into the next one. Simple as that."
The Lakers followed through on that edict and lived to play Thursday. They kept the Celtics from celebrating on their floor, at least on this night.
After Game Six, Kobe continued to maintain his trademark cool: "We're used to being in must-win situations. The way we look at it, (Game 7) is just a game we've got to win."
Maybe he knows that the Celtics are now 1-8 in road playoff closeout games. Maybe it's because the Lakers' playoff record at home is nearly the reverse of that: 10-1.
Nothing else matters but Game Seven on Thursday, even the six games that preceded it. The Lakers have shown they can overcome Boston's physical and tough defense when Kobe's supporting cast—starters and bench players—all decide to show up. Only the Lakers, though, know if they actually will .
It's hard to say if the Celtics even showed up tonight, and whether Kendrick Perkins or Andrew Bynum will for the next one. Nothing that has come before will prepare either team or its fans for Thursday night. Past will not necessarily be prologue.
This really will be a game where the fan must throw everything out, including those home and road playoff statistics. It presents the ultimate opportunity for excitement and dread among both fan bases.
If the Celtics win, the Lakers' performance tonight won't have changed a thing except stalling the ultimate outcome. If the Lakers win, then this will have just been a necessary step to get to that point.
For at least one night, though, the Lakers validated the famous quote of that guy who took stewardship of the team before Phil Jackson decided he wanted to get back to winning rings instead of writing books:
"Don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion."
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