Mood around Boston somber after loss

BOSTON -- Eric Hillman sat next to the famed Red Auerbach statue in Faneuil Hall, Garcia y Vega cigar in his lap, ready to light up.

He had been in this very same spot two years ago when the Celtics won it all against this very same Lakers team. The cigar in his hand tonight was purchased that very night. The green felt Celtics cap he placed on Red's head was a Christmas gift, too, from a close friend some 15 years ago.

Hillman, 45, who commutes to his job at the nearby post office daily from Exeter, N.H., could only watch in silence -- almost indifferently -- as Sasha Vujacic iced the Lakers' championship with two clutch free throws. Still, the team had vastly exceeded expectations, and that called for a victory light.

"We'll get 'em next year, Red," he spoke calmly to the bronzed statue. A passer-by then approached, rubbed Red's head and kissed the bronzed face's right cheek.

And so went the mood here in Boston in the hours after the Celtics dropped a thriller to the Lakers in game seven of the NBA Finals. The reaction was not of anger, but of solace in that this Celtics team exceeded the expectations of many.

The plethora of police, armed with helmets and batons, took off quickly with nary a confrontation.

Some called it the best game they'd ever seen.

Others just wanted to go home.

Most just exhaled and shrugged. Hey, maybe next year.