Sports messageboards rank somewhere between newspaper websites and YouTube for hosting the strangest, most outrageous, passionate posters. Assuming there are decent moderators keeping things sane, there isn't the racism or homophobia that litters the online sites of newspapers, and the spelling is much better than on YouTube. Still, they can be an odd place, filled with fanatics whose only concern in life is watching their team win and, more importantly, watching their least-favorite teams lose.
These people want Phil Jackson fired after a December loss. They want Kobe Bryant traded after a 6-19 shooting performance, then, two days later, following a 40-point effort from Kobe, the same people start a discussion that asks: Is there any doubt Kobe's now the best of all-time? These people want Pau Gasol traded back to Memphis and lament the day Kwame Brown left town, when they're not speculating about whether Gasol is the best big man in the game today and/or better than Kevin McHale. Some posters use three exclamation points with every sentence, when they use any punctuation at all. They spin vast conspiracies inolving David Stern and the NBA and how the league doesn't want the Lakers to win, a theory 29 other teams and fans rightfully find laughable.
Yet I drop in often and also contribute. There are knowledgeable posters. There are good historical discussions amidst the carnage.
But I also read for entertainment sake. They make my little outbursts look sane and amateurish. And, last night, after Big Baby and Little Baby dismantled the Lakers in the fourth quarter, Lakersground.net was flying high. People despaired. They whined. They cried. One person even speculated about whether it was wrong to trade Vladomir Radmanovic. It's a place to unwind.
But as always, when I'm trying to predict the Lakers future, I retreat to the past to look for precedent.
I've already written about what happens when a team wins Game 3 in a 1-1 series in the 2-3-2 format. They're 10-0 all-time, so the Lakers are guaranteed victory this year. Right? And Phil Jackson's never lost when his team wins the first game of a series, so, again, the Lakers are guaranteed to win. Right? Unfortunately, the Celtics keep winning every other game and now it's a best-of-three.
Back to the history books.
Since the 2-3-2 format began in 1985, there have been eight series tied at 2-2:
1985: Celtics had homecourt advantage, lost Game 5 in LA, lost Game 6 in Boston.
1988: Lakers owned homecourt, lost Game 5 in Detroit, won Games 6 and 7 in LA.
1992: Chicago owned homecourt, won Game 5 in Portland, won Game 6 in Chicago.
1994: Houston owned homecourt, lost Game 5 in New York, won Games 6 and 7 in Houston.
1997: Chicago owned homecourt, won Game 5 in Utah, won Game 6 in Chicago.
2003: San Antonio owned homecourt, won Game 5 in New Jersey, won Game 6 in San Antonio.
2005: San Antonio owned homecourt, won Game 5 in Detroit, lost Game 6 in San Antonio, won Game 7 in Detroit.
2006: Dallas had homecourt, lost Game 5 in Miami, lost Game 6 in Dallas.
So...the game on Sunday is more important to the Celtics than the Lakers, no matter how hysterical Laker fans would get after a defeat. No team has won both Game 6 and Game 7 on the road. Portland, Utah, New Jersey and Detroit tried and failed. Only Detroit even managed to push things to an ultimate game in 2005.
On the other hand, two teams have lost Game 5 on the road and then won Games 6 and 7. Houston did it in 1994, thanks in part to John Starks' meltdown in Game 7.
And the Lakers did it in 1988. Isiah Thomas scored 25 points in the third quarter of Game 6 but sprained his ankle. Detroit led by three with a minute to go before a Byron Scott jumper and two free throws by Kareem lifted the Lakers. In Game 7, the Lakers exploded in the second half, then held on in the final moments.
So teams have done what the Lakers would have to accomplish if they lose Game 5 on Sunday.
But I still don't want to see them have to try and win two in a row.
Another stat: The Lakers have won a remarkable 14 straight games when the series has been tied, dating back to Game 1 against Houston last year. I saw a graphic that said Jordan's Bulls won 16 straight and Russell's Celtics 19 straight. The Lakers have also won six straight closeout games. I'm hoping both of those trends continue the next two games: Lakers win Sunday, then finish it off Tuesday in LA.
But if they lose Sunday, I'll be talking about remembering 1988 and the Rockets in 1994. And I'll be forgetting about the Celtics in 1985 and Dallas in 2006. And I'll retreat to the occasionally strange world of Lakersground, where someone will demand that Rudy Tomjanovich replace Phil Jackson, preferably before Game 6.