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They were the golden standard in the Eastern Conference, the bullies on the block, the big brother other teams were forced to look up too; but not anymore. The Boston Celtics finally met their match. The Miami Heat eliminated the Celtics four games to one by handing them a Game 5 loss 97-87. The defeat marks the first time the Celtics have lost a series in less than 7 games in the new Big Three era.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James finally powered through the team that they admit was their inspiration to come together. James finally showed that he may in fact have a clutch gene. He buried Boston down the stretch spearheading a 16-0 run and relentless attack to vanquish the kings of the Eastern Conference.
“It’s a great team,” James said after the win. “Like I said, I got the utmost respect for that team. They’re the reason why all three of us came together, is because of what they did, that blueprint they had in ’08 when they all came together.”
The Celtics came out strong early and led by eight after the first quarter. In that quarter, Kevin Garnett flexed his muscles and looked like vintage KG. He had 12 points and was both lively and active. Defensively, the C’s were crisp, holding Miami to 5-for-19 shooting through the game’s first 14 minutes.
The Green Team continued to battle and had the advantage on the scoreboard throughout most of the game. Heading into the final quarter they were hanging on tightly to a 73-71 lead.
Boston pushed the Heat into a deeper hole to start the fourth quarter. Delonte West scored six early points to lead a bench that actually provided a boost by adding 33 points as a unit.
They were in good position to maintain a lead and force another game, but at the 4:00 minute mark, Kevin Garnett missed a tough fadeaway late in the shot clock that led to a James Jones three on the other end. The rout was on.
Maybe it was the age of the Big Three finally showing, but they fizzled out in those last four minutes. LeBron James, for the second straight game, hit a three-point dagger late to set Boston back for good. With 40.4 left on the ticker he drained another trey and then shortly after, grabbed a steal and threw it down for two. Nothing was left for Doc and his team to do except look on as their season came to an abrupt end.
On a night where a torch may have been passed, Miami’s Big Three of Wade, James and Chris Bosh dominated Boston’s Big Three of Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. In the fourth quarter, the battle of the superstar triumvirates leaned heavily in favor of Miami. They dominated, scoring 23 points to only 2 from Boston’s tiring triplets. The younger, stronger, more athletic trio of Miami outscored Boston’s trio 81-45 in Game 5 and 355-252 over the entire series.
As the new Big Three celebrated on their home floor, we were forced to look reality right in the eyes. Not only is the series and season over, but the recent resurgence of the Celtic mystique may be finished as well. With a lockout looming and the Boston Three Party not getting any younger, a missed season could all but assure us that we’ve seen the last of championship glory for this core group.
There was one bright spot came after the disappointing loss. Doc Rivers said with conviction, that he has a desire to win more with Boston and remain with the Green moving forward.
“I’m leaning heavily toward coming back,” said Rivers. “I haven’t made that decision, but I can tell you I probably will. I’ve kind of come to that over the last couple of weeks. You know, I’m a Celtic. And I love our guys and I want to win again here. I do. I’m competitive as hell, I have a competitive group, and so we’ll see. But I can tell you that’s where I’m at today.”
A great sign that maybe, just maybe, another playoff run could be possible.
The Celtics have seven players that will be unrestricted free agents this offseason. Jeff Green will be a restricted free agent and both Shaquille O’Neal and Ray Allen have player options. The uncertainty about who will return and who won’t is surely going to lead to a lot of new faces next season, whenever that may be.
That’s the other issue. We don’t know when the next season will be. NBA owners have promised a lockout if a new CBA can’t be agreed upon. If a season is missed thanks to a lockout we may see more turnover of this roster.
Despite the loss, the Celtics showed everyone what they’re made of. Expected to be too old and too weak to remain at the top of the East, they silenced critics by holding the top spot for the majority of the season. The C’s sent four players to the All-Star game. The Green Team courageously withstood a plethora of injures and adversity. We should all appreciate the great season our beloved Celtics gave us. What we saw was true Celtic pride and I have nothing but admiration and gratitude for what we witnessed.
Thank You Celtics, Great Season.
Follow Brian Moller on Twitter: @Brian_Moller