Has it ever happened before that all four conference championship series in the NHL and NBA had each been 3-0 at some point? One wouldn't think so.
A lot of 2004 Red Sox chatter with the Celtics being down 3-0 heading into last night's game, and now today given that they won. Personally, I think one is delusional if they think the Celtics have a chance. But I also watched last night because the nature of sports is you don't know. You never do. At least not until afterwards. Anything can happen.
With the 2004 Red Sox, there was a path, which Kevin Millar laid out. If they were able to win that fourth game, they had Pedro Martinez in Game Five, Curt Schilling in Game Six, and as Millar said, anything can happen in a Game 7. You'll take your chances.
And anything did, when a slumping Johnny Damon all of a sudden got a pitch he could do something with and the Sox were on their way. Things can get away from you fast in a Game 7. In baseball, that rapidity can take the form of a single pitch, as in a bases loaded situation. A bad five-minute stretch in basketball can do it. In hockey, three shots. Then it's like you're beneath an avalanche and you can't get out and you're running out of time.
Martinez didn't give them much in that Game 5. They won despite him. Martinez didn't keep himself in good shape. I've never understood why no one else talks about this. Look at his face in 2004. Compare with just a couple years before.
But the Red Sox had Mr. Ortiz, who was as consistent in the clutch as you can be, with a performance that I put near the top of the best I've ever seen, from anyone, in any sport. It may be the very best I've ever seen. For those games. It was the most clutch performance I've seen from an athlete.
The path for the Celtics? You'd need high-level play the rest of the way from Jayson Tatum--and I don't think he's capable of being consistent--and assorted guys contributing in meaningful ways. People like Grant Williams.
You'd also need consistent defensive intensity and no let up. When was the last time the Celtics went a sustained stretch without let up? Has this core group ever done that?
The Celtics also live and die by the three, so those shots have to be falling. You need a lot of things for three straight games. I just don't see how you could get all of those things. This is a front-running team. By definition, down 3-0 is as unfront-running friendly as it gets. 3-1 is somewhat better, but there is a difference between being down 3-1 after you were down 3-0 and after you were down 2-1. It's a different toll to come back depending on the origins, if you will, of 3-1; a different expenditure of energy and psychological energy.
And they're, what, 4-5 at home? They're a terrible home team. I'm sure there have been very few NBA champions who lost 5 games at home during their run, if any.
I guess the Florida Panthers are pretty good, huh? But I knew that early on agains the Bruins, which in no way absolves the Bruins or lessens just how historical their collapse--choke--was. I don't care who that eight seed is, after you win 65 games. That just can't happen. I have no problem calling that Bruins team one of the five biggest choke teams in sports history. The 73 win Golden State squad would be there. Really it might just be those two teams for me. And I go way back, of course, in knowledge of these matters--to the nineteenth century.
The Panthers had the attitude, the mindset, the leader, the big-time stars, the grit guys--with their best player being a huge grit guy--and then things clicked in net when they got the right guy in there and he got going at the right time. They were vulnerable for exactly four games. Where the Bruins really erred was in not showing up for Game 2. I think they had to sweep that team in order to advance.
Now you have a series where the Panthers are +3 and up 3-0. Pretty hard to do. You need to be nails when it matters to pull that off. Your ship is a tight ship. You have mettle. You are clutch. And you know how to win. Winning isn't just about winning as in not losing. It's not even just about performing and out-performing.
There is a knowledge factor; you have to know how to do it. This is true in sports and life. In life, right now, hardly anyone knows how to win; winning means going out and earning. What people know how to do is have things handed to them that they neither deserve nor earned.
That's nearly everyone in publishing, for instance. That's not winning. That's not being a winner. Those people don't know the first thing about any of that. Typically they hate sports, too, which is both what you'd expect and says much. They can't even understand them, or what it means to compete--and compete, horror of horrors, on a level playing field--a concept which they also fear and hate.