The Boston Celtics collected their 17th NBA title in 2008, thanks to the “Big Three” of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen. But the first team never ended up claiming another crown – though they did help create a new king in the league.
In order to really understand the Big Three Celtics, one first needs to look back at the situation in the Eastern Conference. LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers had taken the torch from the Detroit Pistons but still were swept in the 2007 NBA Finals by San Antonio.
The Celtics? They picked up only 24 victories and were hoping for Kevin Durant or Greg Oden in the 2007 NBA Draft. Boston ended up with the fifth pick and star Paul Pierce started asking for a trade and even general manager Danny Ainge was in danger of losing his job.
But on draft day June 28, Ainge traded the fifth pick (Jeff Green) along with Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West to the Seattle SuperSonics for Ray Allen and Glen Davis. Then Ainge used the dissatisfaction of Garnett – who had missed the playoffs the last three seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves at this point – and his connection to Minnesota GM Kevin McHale to land Garnett, who didn’t even want to go to Boston. But McHale let his former Celtics teammate Ainge talk to Garnett and convince him that he could team up with Pierce and Allen and dominate the weak Eastern Conference. And on July 31 2007, Garnett headed to Boston in exchange for five players and two first round draft picks.
The three veterans clicked immediately and along with second-year Rajon Rondo raced to a 29-3 mark. In the end, Boston finished with a 66-16 record thanks mainly to their defense with Garnett picking up Defensive Player of the Year honors as assistant coach Tom Thibodeau led the defense for head coach Doc Rivers.
The Celtics were not nearly as dominant in the playoffs, needing seven games to get past the 37-win Hawks in the first round and seven more to down 45-victory Cleveland with LeBron James.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, Boston upended the Pistons in six games to reach their first NBA Finals since 1987. And the Celtics finally tasted championship champaign again after 1986 by knocking off the rival Los Angeles Lakers in six games. It was the first time that the Celtics had to wait more than 20 years for a title in their storied history. But Boston fans have still not celebrated an 18th banner since.
The 2008-09 Celtics did start with a 27-2 record as Rondo stepped up his game. The team was 44-12 in February when Garnett injured his knee. He would return but Boston were ousted in the second round of the playoffs in seven games by the Orlando Magic and Dwight Howard.
Injuries to Pierce, Garnett, Davis and Tony Allen kept Boston to only fourth place in the East in 2009-10. The Big Three had one more post-season run in them though, beating Atlanta in five games and then knocking off LeBron James and the Cavs in six games before getting past the Magic in six games to get back to the NBA Finals.
But the Lakers would get their revenge from 2008 and down the Celtics in seven games, taking the final two games at home to deny Boston their 18th banner.
The power of the Big Three had another factor as well, leading LeBron James in 2010 to take his talents to Miami and form a super team of his own with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and finally be crowned the King of the NBA with the 2012 and 2013 NBA crowns with the Heat.
In the end, the Big Three of Pierce, Garnett and Allen ended up winning just the one NBA crown – though they will always have a place in NBA history.
by FIVE Magazine #166 – Boston Celtics – Text: Ole Frerks