Down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Miami Heat were faced with two must-win games.
Losing to the Celtics could have easily led to the breakup of the “Big Three” experiment in Miami, and it could even have led to the firing of Erik Spoelstra.
None of these possibilities need now be address as LeBron James and the Heat won the last two games, each by double-digits, in order to reach the NBA Finals to face the Thunder.
LeBron James needed to have a dominating performance in Game 6 to keep his title hopes alive, and he did just that. He scored 45 points on 19-26 shooting, and he was only joined in double-digit scoring by Dwyane Wade (19 points). Pierce, Garnett, and Allen all struggled, which sent the series back to Miami for the deciding Game 7.
The game was tied heading into the fourth quarter, but Boston just ran out of gas at the end. They stopped hitting shots late in the game while the Heat continued to score. LeBron hit a three-point shot a few feet behind the line, which was indicative of the fourth quarter; the Heat simply had it while the Celtics did not.
Chris Bosh came off the bench and added 19 points, including going 3-4 behind the arc. Bosh, Wade, and LeBron combined to score 73 of the Heat’s 101 points, along with the last 31 points in the game. Shane Battier also helped out with 12 points.
The Celtics played tough for three quarters, but as mentioned above they just could not keep up at the end. Every starter played at least 35 minutes – Pierce (42), Garnett (35) and Allen (39) – while they also battled foul trouble. Rondo led them in scoring once again with 22 points, and he also recorded a triple-double.
There are those who will say that the Celtics would not even have made it this far had Derrick Rose not gotten injured, but injuries are a part of sports and the Celtics were in fact in the Eastern Conference Finals. They took the Heat to the brink of elimination, but could not pull through.
The next step for the Celtics’ front office will be to decide on what to do with their “Big Three.” Pierce is not going anywhere, but Allen and Garnett are both free agents.
The popular move would be to let the group have one more shot at it, but Danny Ainge’s likely move will be to not re-sign either Garnett or Allen, or even both. The fact that he tried to trade Ray Allen to Memphis before the trade deadline is enough evidence that no player on the team is permanent.
Given the likelihood that Garnett and Allen will move on with their careers, the Celtics have a few options. One will be to rebuild through the draft and build around Rondo as the point guard. Pierce only has a few years left, and he could eventually come off the bench later on in his career.
The other option is to try and bring in some new players to build a new “Big Three.” Rondo and Pierce could be joined by another high-profile player to give the team another shot at a title.
The Celtics will surely face changes over the next few weeks and months. Whether the “Big Three” remains or is dismantled will be one of the major story lines in the NBA as the summer goes on.