Boy, They Sure Grow Up Fast

If you don't learn from history, you're doomed to repeat.

That's the old adage to help everyone learn from their mistakes and grow into better people.

It's supposed to let us know that when we stand up on a table in the middle of a bar and start whirling around our shirt like a copter blade, bare-chested and all, that we might want to choose a different line of thought the next time we get drunk.

It's supposed to let you know that you may want to select a different spouse when considering marriage for the fourth time.

And it's supposed to change around your luck when things aren't going you're way in a championship series. In layman's terms, you probably know it as adjustments.

That's what stands in front of the Los Angeles Lakers after falling in a 0-2 hole Sunday night against the Boston Celtics. L.A. was up in Game 1 of the Finals before the Celts put the defensive clamps down. Beantown surged to a 20-plus point advantage in Game 2 before fending off the Lakers as if they were failing a wooden spoon against a tiger.

Then there's another saying. Watch what you say, because it may come back to bite you. (It may not be as official as the other adage, but it seems that way from time to time).

In both cases, these two sayings about history and comeuppance have a little to do with prophecy. In some way, they can be used to look at future events with some sort of certainty. That's why I'm taken back about a week to Derek Fisher, the starting Lakers point guard. He was asked about the team's gelling through the season and how they got to the point of making the Finals.

"We've said it this entire postseason," he said, "that we're learning to be champions as we're doing it."

It's funny, but those words may be extremely prophetic. However, they I don't think they're about his team. These are comments that would be more suited to their opponents in green and white. It's true that both teams are full of young, burgeoning talent. But when you look at the core of both squads, there's a certain "je ne sais quoi" to the Lakers ... and a lot of "I dunno" with the Celtics.

L.A. has enough experience in their back pocket to get by. Their best player (Kobe Bryant) has three rings. Their starting floor general (Fisher) received his three rings alongside Bryant. Their coach (Phil Jackson) is tied for the most coaching championships in NBA history with nine.

By contrast, Boston can only boast two players who know what it takes to taste victory at this stage ... and they both come off the bench. Sam Cassell (two with Houston) and James Posey (one with Miami) can give inspiration, but you don't particularly look to them when it comes to crunch time. The Celtics' new Big Three of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen only had three appearances in the Conference Finals in their combined 32 seasons of play. Head coach Doc Rivers hadn't gotten to the Finals as a player or a coach until a week ago.

This may be why Boston's run to the NBA Finals might be more in line with what Fisher was thinking. Los Angeles had pretty much rolled through the Western Conference Playoffs.

They basically brought their bazookas to a knife fight in sweeping the Denver Nuggets. The Utah Jazz provided some fairly stiff competition, but couldn't do what the Lakers could: close out a team on the road. The defending champion San Antonio Spurs had their opportunities, but you had to think that a seven-game series against New Orleans wore them down in their five-game defeat.

On the other hand, Boston has looked more like a six-month-old toddler learning to take their first steps. The opening round series against Atlanta was supposed to be a bit of a joke.

Hey Hawks, glad you could make the party, but, uhhh, we're gonna have to ask you to go back home.

Unfortunately, like those lovable losers from "Revenge of the Nerds," they didn't get the message. The Hawks' athleticism caused Boston a world of problems, especially in the Dirty South. They won each of their home games and forced the Celts to seven games before bowing out.

Cleveland figured to be tougher, with the Cavs being led by LeBron James. Again, the series went seven before Boston could prevail, thanks to a brilliant performance by Pierce. The showdown at the "New Garden" was, by far, the highlight of the series for James, who had been held in check by Boston.

Going into the Conference Finals against the Pistons, two things were hovering over the Celtics: a far superior opponent to the first pair and the inability to win a road game in the postseason. Item two was checked off the list when they claimed victory in game three in Detroit. Item one was toppled with a second road win to seal their trip to the Finals in six games.

Now, up 2-0 on a team with arguably the best closer in the game, Boston seems to be the one that's grown up in front of our eyes. From a team viewed as flawed, inexperienced, and one prone to shriveling in the clutch, the C's only two steps away from bringing the title back to New England for the first time in 22 years. And they're two steps away from having their three stars shedding the aura of not winning the big one.

You know what they say. If you can't beat 'em, gang up on 'em, then beat 'em.

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