MIAMI — Before the Miami ever heard of “The Decision” the Celtics had “The Big Three,” a dream triad of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, a trio of studs who produced an NBA title and gave the Celtics scoring and defense in every way imaginable.
But all great things must come to an end and likely, the three played their last game last night, a disappointing 101-88 loss to the Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. Garnett, 36, and Allen, 37 next month, both are unrestricted free agents who will clear $31.2 million off the Celtics’ payroll.
“Up to this point, five years has gone quickly but it seems like it has lasted forever,” Allen said. “We’ve played in a lot of big games. We won a championship together. The things that we do off the floor together. It’s just been a special time.”
Of course, nothing is etched in stone. But no one sounded like the Celtics core is going to be a tad retooled before giving it another run next season.
“Obviously, we’re all smart, at least you guys are,” said coach Doc Rivers, who repeatedly said how much another trip to the finals with this group would have meant to him and the franchise. “I think we’re going to wait and see what happens with free agency and all that stuff. I honest to gosh hadn’t thought much about it.
“I wish we could have had healthy runs. This team won a title. Got to another one, a Game 7, where they had a shot to win. Got to the Eastern Conference finals and one game away on the road. Banged up,” Rivers said. “But you don’t get do-”‘overs. Everybody has injuries. Not just us.
“But great group. Great team group. I know everybody will look at the Big 3 individually. Kevin, Ray and Paul. I’m never going to look at them individually, I’m going to look at them as a group collective. They all gave up plus-”‘seven shots each. They gave up minutes. I asked them to play defense and move the ball, and they all did it, and they’re willing to do it for the better of the team.”
But last night, against the power of the Heat and especially LeBron James, the Celtics wilted.
“Honestly, I thought we had nothing left,” Rivers said of the Celtics’ endgame fold where they were outscored, 20-6.
It was not the way the former champs wanted it to end. But it is the likely conclusion of the Big 3 .
Kevin Garnett, Celtics, Celtics, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Doc Rivers, the Heat, Eastern Conference finals