In the end, they simply ran out of gas. For basketball purists like myself, we were clinging to the faint hope that the battered Celtics could rise up one more time and crawl to the NBA finals. Doc Rivers referred to these Eastern Conference finals as a heavyweight fight, and one that would require taking a few body shots in order to win. The aged C’s took plenty of those shots from the younger and more talented Heat, but none was more devastating than LeBron James’ video game-like 29 footer that virtually sealed the Heat’s game 7 win.
Even though this Celtics team couldn’t get up off the canvas one final time, their legacy has been cemented in NBA history. They will be remembered not solely for giving Boston it’s 17th NBA title, but for how hard they played and battled through adversity. From the moment Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce, the three all-stars checked their egos at the door. They displayed a selflessness that made them a joy to watch.
It was never about whose team it was. The sole objective was winning rings and raising banners. And even when the Celtics became Rajon Rondo’s squad, it didn’t matter to the Big 3. It was all about the team and how to win that night’s game.
When the C’s were playing the Bulls in Chicago in ’08, I got to see first hand just how serious they took their craft. I arrived to the U.C. early to watch them warm up. K.G. was working on elbow jumpers and his post moves with an assistant. Allen was going through his legendary pre-game shooting ritual that is a must see for fans who appreciate great shooters. And Paul Pierce also worked himself into a lather shooting the ball and working on his step back jumper. On the other end of the court at the same time, Tyrus Thomas was shooting 3′s, dribbling the ball off his foot & talking with fans courtside. On one 94 foot floor, you saw how true professionals work and how a basketball idiot goes through the motions. There’s a reason I immediately placed a bet on the C’s that night.
“If we could have gotten this group to the Finals, it would have been fantastic for all of us,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. “That’s all I thought about today. Somehow let’s see if we can get this group to the Finals. They deserve it with their will.”
Their will to even get to this point is worthy of applause. Sure, Derrick Rose’s ACL gave us another 7 games out of this group, but they could have easily used age and injury as an excuse to lay down vs the Heat. A healthy Avery Bradley (and a healthy Jeff Green & Chris Wilcox) could have changed the outcome of the series, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Talent will always prevail, but injuries often tell the story in this league. After they steamrolled the Lakers in ’08, Garnett’s knee injury took away a chance at a repeat, Kendrick Perkins’ knee injury in game 6 of the ’10 finals gave 6-24 Kobe his 5th ring & age and attrition ended their run this year.
Father time doesn’t have a waiting list. It comes swift and is so often brutal to watch. But this version of the Celtics Big 3 should be appreciated and admired. In the team up with superstars era, they went about it the right way and gave casual fans a reason to still watch the league.
Between the look at me divas, the officiating & swagalicious fashion trends, many fans have become turned off by David Stern’s association. It’s hard not to blame them, but Garnett (free agent in July), Pierce & Allen (also a free agent in July and awaiting ankle surgery) were a breath of fresh air in an otherwise polluted NBA world. I take my hat off to them and all they accomplished together these past 5 years. Who knows what the future holds in Bean Town, but it’s been a privilege to watch ego-less stars battle and give every ounce of blood and sweat they had to very end.