Two years ago, the Celtics throttled the Lakers with a combination of intensity, toughness and desire that the Lakers simply couldn’t match. It’s one of the biggest cliches in sports, “They wanted it more,” but when it came to the 2008 Celtics that overused cliche was essentially their biggest strength. That team, due mostly to the fact that the Big Three smelled their first championship, had a singular focus on winning a title that was unlike any other team I’ve seen in my lifetime.
It will sound like exaggeration but, from opening night up until Game 6 of the NBA Finals, the 2008 Celtics played harder than any NBA team I’ve ever watched. Despite being a mostly new roster they gelled instantly, becoming a cohesive unit after only one training camp because every single player had only one thought on his mind: Raising banner #17.
The Lakers that year were not tough enough to stop them. They had Kobe and they had Pau, but the Lakers weren’t ready to compete at the level needed to match such furious effort. They might not have been soft in comparison to the rest of the league but, in relation to the 2008 Celtics, the Los Angeles Lakers were one big pile of marshmallow.
But even in defeat, according to Kobe Bryant, the Lakers learned something from those Celtics: How to play at a championship level. (LA Times)
“The last time we played them, it was a great learning experience for us. It taught us what it takes to be a champion,” said Kobe Bryant, who scored 37 points Saturday. “With the defensive intensity they play, with the tenacity they play with, we learned a great deal in that series.”
Did the Celtics teach the Lakers the blueprint that helped them win last year’s title, or did the Lakers win a banner last season only because of Kevin Garnett’s injury? Did the teacher screw itself over by teaching a lesson too good, too powerful? Is Kobe Bryant right? Are the Lakers now better than the Celtics?
We have seven games to find out.