Well, this one hurts.
Despite every other emotion thats currently running through your veins the anger, frustration, hatred, depression, helplessness, resentment its all born out of the same simultaneously simple yet complex sensation: Pain.
This hurts. This is painful. And it will be for a while.
It hurts because of how it happened. It hurts because of when it happened. It hurts because of where it happened and whom it happened against.
It hurts because for the second time in three insanely important games, the Celtics were needlessly without their captain the man weve come to recognize as one of the greatest Celtics of all time when it mattered most.
It hurts because they wasted a legendary performance by their future captain. Wasted it. Rajon Rondos 53-minute, 44-point, 10-assist, eight-rebound, three-steal and three-turnover masterpiece may be the gutsiest thing youve seen on a basketball court in years. It may serve as another absolute and undeniable mark of his greatness. Does it make you feel a little better about the future? Yup. Does it leave a satisfying egg on the face of every over-dramatic moral compass who questioned Rondo's commitment after Game 1 against Atlanta? Yup. But right now, its also a meaningless footnote. Its irrelevant.
Last night hurts because it masked another textbook LeBron James breakdown. For all his predictable screaming and taunting at the end Game 1 and despite his impressive stat line in Game 2 Bron was shaky and scared down the stretch. He made only one basket in the fourth quarter and overtime, and missed four key foul shots along the way. When the game was on the line, he was a different person that other person lacking the confidence of Stacey King never mind the King. On the last play of regulation, with the score tied at 99-99, James cleared out for an isolation against Rondo a defender who was giving up seven inches, at least 100 pounds and running on whatever comes after fumes. Had he taken it to the hoop, James was guaranteed one of three outcomes:
1) The defense collapses leaving multiple teammates wide open along the perimeter.
2) A game-winning dunk or lay-up.
3) Two foul shots, with the Heat needing only one for a win.
He pulled up for a 21-foot fade away.
Had the Celtics come out on top, James latest display of kindergarten toughness would be in the spotlight; another example of the undisputed best player in the NBA being overwhelmed by the moment. After his antics in Game 1, that spotlight and criticism were never more deserved, and couldn't have been anymore satisfying.
It hurts because the referees were a factor. No, Im not blaming them for the loss. Im just saying that the image of Rondo getting raked across the face with 1:35 left in overtime of a tie game with the season essentially on the line makes everything worse. Not only because it was clearly a foul. Not only because at that time, there wasnt a player on the court who deserved the call more than Rondo. Not only because we have to use words like deserved to analyze a part of the game that should be completely objective. Not only because, on the other end, James was sent to the line 24 TIMES. But because once, just once, youd love to grieve over a heartbreaking loss without a referee-fueled what if.
I know. I know. Theyre human. But arent we all? And what happens when normal humans repeatedly fail so miserably at their jobs? Do they not get disciplined, even fired? And what do you think happened to James Capers after last night, after a blatant blown call at the most crucial moment on the game's biggest stage? A pat on the ass and a "Gettem next time, champ"?
Last night hurts because you dont know how many 43-minute outings Ray Allen has left in the tank; because after a game like that, you don't know how much any of them have left. It hurts because Doc Rivers has clearly, and even worse, justifiably given up on his bench. It hurts because you were forced to withstand the sight of Wally Szczerbiaks enormous teeth tweeting cheap shots at KG.
It hurts because 94 percent of teams that go down 0-2 in the NBA playoffs go on to lose. And while you'd never put it past these Celtics to fall into that six percent, you can't escape the nearly insurmountable hill they're now forced to climb. It hurts because not only did they blow a chance, but likely their best chance to steal a game in Miami. It hurts because you believed that they could win. Not just that game, but also the series. Before Game 1, the chances were slim. After Game 1, they were non-existent. But Game 2 brought you back. Somewhere along the line you stopped protecting yourself from reality, completely let your guard down and unconditionally believed. That makes this morning that much worse.
Like always, the pain will eventually fade. At 8:30 tomorrow night, the Celtics will take the court again and start chipping away at the aftermath of Game 2. Of course, the memories will never completely disappear, but the emotions will be replaced. They'll give us more reasons to believe, find different ways to make us hurt. By halftime of Game 3, this will all be a distant memory.
But for now, these feelings aren't going anywhere.
A great game. A horrible loss. A missed opportunity.
So much pain.