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Sports Then and Now

Is It The End of An Era in Boston Celtics Basketball?

Posted on June 11, 2012 by Brendan Tyman

The Boston Celtics could be without Kevin Garnett (left), Paul Pierce (center), and Ray Allen (right) next season.

All great things come to an end.

The Big Three revival ended on Saturday night when the Boston Celtics were ousted by LeBron James and the Miami Heat, 101-88, in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Now, the uncertainty of the offseason arrives.

Saturday night’s game was reminiscent of the last five years with the Celtics having the opportunity to win multiple championships, but they missed chances and suffered debilitating injuries. In the 2009 postseason, they lost Kevin Garnett to a season-ending knee injury in February. Ultimately, the team fell to the Orlando Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals. They fought all the way to Game 7 of the 2010 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers where they played without center Kendrick Perkins, who tore his ACL in Game 6 of that series. In an ending eerily similar to the 2010 Finals, the Celtics could not hang with the Heat in the final six minutes of the game on Saturday. Like in 2010, the Celtics head into the offseason with the possibility of the Big Three breaking up with Ray Allen and Garnett as free agents. Paul Pierce has two years left on his contract, but only one season is fully guaranteed. The Celtics could either trade Pierce, amnesty him, or keep him while they rebuild.

There is still a chance that the Celtics could bring the core of the last five years back together for a final run for 2012-’13. After last night’s press conferences from an emotional Doc Rivers and teary-eyed Allen, it appears that the team has long-term goals in mind to build the team around point guard Rajon Rondo.

If this is indeed the end of Garnett and Allen’s careers in Boston, they proved they are champions with the sacrifice they (along with Pierce) made to conquer their goal of winning a championship in the 2007-’08 season. They all had been the lone superstars in Seattle, Minnesota, and Boston. These three carried the Celtics to three Eastern Conference finals appearances.

What hurts about the loss to the Heat was the Celtics had a 3-2 series lead just like they did against the Lakers in 2010 and they were not able to win that last game. Pierce, Garnett, and Allen did not have the legs to carry the team, but the Celtics did not have a full roster to overtake the Heat. The bench only scored two points on a Ryan Hollins tip-in and they were unable to provide significant minutes. Marquis Daniels, Keyon Dooling, and Mickael Pietrus helped the team climb out of the 2-0 hole by making big defensive plays. They were also able to carry the momentum on the offensive end in Games 3 through 5.

This team was in scramble mode from when the lockout was lifted just after Thanksgiving. Danny Ainge was trying to assemble a roster filled with quality players to play around Garnett, Allen, and Pierce. Jeff Green was forced to have surgery on an aortic valve in his heart before the season even began. Chris Wilcox had a procedure done to fix an enlarged aorta in February. Jermaine O’Neal had surgery in March due to several injuries, including a wrist injury that never healed properly. Avery Bradley suffered a dislocated shoulder in the postseason that forced him out of action during the series against the Philadelphia 76ers. The team was without four key contributors who could have helped the Celtics reach the NBA Finals.

In the end, the team’s Achillies’ heel was a lack of depth. Their shots were hitting the front rim and James was able to consistently get by the Celtic defenders to the basket. Miami’s center Chris Bosh, who missed the first four games of the series with an abdominal injury, came through with three critical treys. James nailed a shot clock desperation three to extend the lead to seven in that final Heat run. That ultimately was the knockout blow from the Heat and the Celtics could not match those irregular shots.

At least the Celtics can be proud that they battled until the end when nobody thought they were going to come close after they had a 15-17 record at the All-Star break in February. They gave themselves a chance to win, but they lost to a more talented squad of players who are hoping to gain something the Celtics already have, which is a championship.

As one great era ends, it is time for a new chapter in the history of the Boston Celtics.

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