Celtics fans remain positive despite loss

6/4/2010 - NBA Boston Celtics

ALLSTON, Mass. -- The Boston Celtics turned in a disappointing effort in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, losing 102-89 to the Los Angeles Lakers, but many fans watching at the Sports Depot remain optimistic about the team's chances to win the championship.

"I still think we're looking at a seven-game series and the Celtics will win it," said Steve Morrissey, 36, from Braintree. "I still think it's going to be one helluva series. This game, I thought the Lakers would win, but I think the Celtics will come back in Game 2. The Celtics have to take this next game, that's all we have to think about."

Morrissey was one of several hundred fans who packed the Sports Depot, the longtime hotspot visible from the Massachusetts Turnpike that will soon be turning into a Pizzeria Regina.

Many wore Celtics jerseys, such as Erika Dubis of North Adams.

"We'll need to play better defense than that," said Dubis, donning a green Paul Pierce No. 34 jersey. "I'm not concerned yet. Get back at me in Games 2 or 3, and if we're still playing like this, then I'll be very concerned."

"They didn't play like they normally play," added Nick Macrellis, 29, of Cambridge. "There was no defense. I think we'll see them play a much better game in Game 2."

While the Celtics lost, it was a winning night business-wise for the Sports Depot. The line extended out of the door at 9 p.m. when the game was tipping off, and manager Teddy Sullivan estimated that a total of 225 patrons were on hand at one point.

"For every game, we know it's going to be busy, that's how it is for all of our teams in the playoffs," said Sullivan, who grew up in Newton. "The deeper a team goes in the playoffs, the more excitement there is. Then even more people come out."

"I love the playoffs," said bartender Victoria McDonough, adding that the scene was "10 times busier" than a regular Thursday night.

McDonough was busy serving patrons at a bar that includes nine flat-screen televisions, so she didn't watch much of the game. If it were a different sport, she might have paid more attention.

"I'm a Bruins girl," she said. "And I don't want to talk about it."

While the Bruins' stunning collapse in the NHL playoffs still cuts deep, Celtics fans had plenty to talk about Thursday night. Game 1 didn't go the way they hoped, almost from the opening tip.

"I was surprised at how dominant Pau Gasol was," said Paul McGrath, 35, of Braintree. "He was hyped up before the game and he lived up to his hype. He outplayed Kevin Garnett."

But McGrath turned to history as one reason he isn't panicking.

In 1985, he noted that the Celtics blew out the Lakers in the opening game of the Finals 148-114 before losing the series. The year before that, the Lakers won the opening game before the Celtics charged back to win the championship in seven.

"Adjustments will be made between Games 1 and 2," he said.

Yet on the flip side, Phil Jackson-coached teams are 47-0 in series when they win the first game. While Lou DiMuzio of Randolph believes that Jackson is one of the most overrated coaches of all time -- a result of inheriting great players like Michael Jordan in Chicago and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles -- he is concerned at what unfolded in Game 1 and where the series is headed.

"The matchups are tough," he said. "I think if Andrew Bynum was healthy and played in '08, they might have won that series too.

"In this game, Kevin Garnett had the worst game I've seen him play. Offensively, defensively, he was just terrible," he added. "We love him, but Gasol took him to school."

Greg Penta of Waltham was surprised at Gasol's production, but he sees things turning around Sunday night.

"No worries," he said. "The Celtics' shots didn't fall, and the Lakers still only scored 102 points. I think it will be 70-point game for them [on Sunday]."

"It looked like there were some first-game jitters," said Stan Giangregorio of Boston. "I'm just hoping for the split [of the first two games in L.A.]. Let's see what happens in Game 2."

As for what fans see as the key to the series, Morrissey suggests switching up the matchup of having Ray Allen guarding Bryant, even if it means putting Pierce on Bryant. Sean Woods of Allston wants to see point guard Rajon Rondo get back to attacking like he was against the Cleveland Cavaliers, while Kenny Mangano of Kingston believes the spotlight now shines brightest on Doc Rivers to make the necessary coaching adjustments.

Meanwhile, Zach Gross of Somerville thinks the pressure falls on the front line to step up and be more effective against Gasol.

"We're not out of this," Gross said. "It's just one game."