The Boston Celtics will face off against the Miami Heat today on the road in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in a postseason run that regardless of the outcome may end up being the last stand of the Big Three. Rajon Rondo is arguably the best player on the team as well as the catalyst for most of that Celtics do, and thus as Bill Simmons wrote, they should probably be referred to as the Big Four from now on.
And with good reason.
Have a look at the quartet has accomplished together since joining forces in 2008:
- 2007-08 season: NBA Champions
- 2008-09 season: Eliminated in Eastern Conference Semifinals by the Orlando Magic
- 2009-10: Eliminated in NBA Finals by the Los Angeles Lakers
- 2010-11: Eliminated in Eastern Conference Semifinals by the Miami Heat
- 2011-12: Currently playing in Eastern Conference Finals
In five seasons, the group has managed to make two trips to the NBA Finals and three appearances in the Conference Finals. And should one dig deeper, we can see that the times in which the Celtics failed to make it at least to the Conference Finals, they were hamstrung by injuries. In 2009, Boston played without Kevin Garnett who had injured his knee, and last season the team had Rondo essentially playing with one arm against the Miami Heat.
These are not excuses, just facts.
And tonight, despite the fact that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen have what could be deemed to be minor injuries, the Celtics will have their Big Four on the court together.
Their collective experience, coupled with their pride and resolve should give them a chance to win in Miami much like the Detroit Pistons did in Game 7 of the 2005 Eastern Conference Finals in South Beach.
With that said, one can only wonder if this group is in the midst of their last playoff run as a unit as both Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett are free agents at the end of the season. The group has shown a healthy amount of stubbornness in their time together and have refused to accept to just roll over and die.
Nonetheless, KG and Allen are older players that may not be able to handle the grind of another regular season. Indeed, we have seen the Big Ticket turn back the clock and play like the raging madman that helped the Celtics win the title in 2008, but he struggled during the course of the regular season with the condensed schedule. Perhaps an 82-game schedule next season will be kinder to him but there is really no way to be entirely sure.
Thus, whether Boston loses tonight in Miami, in the NBA Finals against the Oklahoma City Thunder or they actually end up winning the title, this group may well be on its way to being broken up.
If such is the case, every game they play together becomes that much more important, not only to fans but to the team itself, and that cannot be undervalued.
Rajon Rondo might be the second best point guard in Celtics history, while Ray Allen may end up being the best shooter the franchise has ever seen. Paul Pierce is probably the best pure scorer in Celtics history and Kevin Garnett’s legacy will probably read that he was the franchise’s second best ever defensive player — behind some random dude named Bill Russell — when it’s all said and done. Whether we realize it or not, this Celtics group is important for historical purposes and they are worth appreciating no matter what team you choose to root for.
Their defense is one of the best we have ever seen and Doc Rivers’ offensive sets are often brilliant given how they exploit defenses all the while maximizing the assets he has at his disposal.
And tonight in Game 7 in South Beach, this is what the Miami Heat will be facing for a chance at to play in the NBA Finals:
No pressure at all guys…
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