Celtics Just Can’t Finish, Lakers Are World Champs

In a microcosm of their season, the Celtics couldn’t hold on to a double-digit third quarter lead, and fell to the Los Angeles Lakers 83-79 in game seven of the NBA Finals.

The Celtics were in full control of this game, dominating the Lakers in every area except rebounds which was how the Lakers hung in throughout this one. Los Angeles controlled the boards, 53-40, including an incredible 23 boards on the offensive end.

The Celtics offense went completely stagnant during a late third quarter, early fourth quarter spurt which saw the Lakers erase the lead and take one of their own. The teams traded three pointers late, and the game wasn’t decided until Sasha Vujacic hit two free throws, which gave the Lakers a four point lead with 11 seconds to go.

Kobe Bryant, supposedly playing for his legacy, was terrible. He lead the Lakers with 23 points, but shot 6-24 in doing so. One media certainty going into tonight was that “there is no way that Kobe will allow the Lakers to lose game seven at home.” That was a joke. Even Michael Jordan’s son (it looks like it really was him.) was trashing Kobe on Twitter.

So this era is over for the Celtics. They’re going to look a lot different when training camp begins just under four months from now. Ray Allen and Doc Rivers are most likely gone. Paul Pierce could be gone. Tom Thibodeau is gone. The only players signed for next year are Garnett, Perkins, Rondo, Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis.  In the aftermath of tonight’s loss, Wallace is already talking retirement. What will Danny Ainge have planned for this summer?

It’s unfortunate that things ended this way, but they gave us a great run. Falling four points short in game seven of the NBA Finals is a whole lot further than anyone predicted they would go. But this was their last chance. I don’t see them coming back to the Finals for quite a while unless Ainge can quickly retool this club. Maybe getting this close convinces them to make one more run at it with this current group. ( I kind of hope not.) Maybe Ray Allen gets a three-year deal, to push his contract to a year beyond Garnett’s, maybe Pierce exercises his option and stays, and maybe Ainge picks up a steal in the draft next week or in free agency and Doc is talked into taking one last run at it. Rivers’ press conference tonight sure seemed like it was the end of the line for him.

I don’t see them trying to get the band back together for another run, but it’s a possibility. Overall, this was an equally infuriating and endearing team. One game they don’t show up at all, and the next game they’re playing with such heart and intensity that you are drawn right back in. The last two games of this series were a perfect example of that. They missed Perkins far more than I expected they would on the boards tonight, and just ran out of gas in the second half. The Lakers turned up their energy, and the Celtics couldn’t match it.

Historically, this is a devastating blow. Losing to the Lakers brings LA a step closer to Boston’s all time title number (though the titles won in Minneapolis shouldn’t count, in my opinion) and adds another title for Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant, boosting their stock even more among the all-time greats. This Celtics group is now just a one-title bunch, which I’ll certainly take, but seeing this run makes you wonder what they could’ve done with a healthy KG last season.

The summer will come quickly, with the draft next week, and free agency less than three weeks away. I’ll be watching what Danny Ainge does very closely.

  • mandb97

    I'm listening to Gary Tanguay and Donny Marshall just a few minutes ago. Tanguay came up with this beauty. I'll paraphrase. The reason why the Celtics lost is because of the lack of chemistry on the team and a lot of players having their own agenda. Let's see, the Celtics came within four points of winning a game seven on the road, which has not been done since 1978 and it's chemistry why they lost. You know I want a job where I can spew garbage and make a decent check like Tanguay. I'm disappointed that Marshall agreed with him.

    As far as the future of the Celtics go, I know Pierce can opt out of his contract but I doubt it. At his age who is going to give him a five year max contract. Do you want to build your franchise around Pierce? I believe the Celtics can be a perennial powerhouse in the NBA because of the ownership. All great organizations begin at the top. I think with Grousbeck and company will always have the Celtics in contention. They will give Ainge carte blanche to retool the team. Just think what it was like when Paul Gaston or heavens John Y. Brown were the owners of the franchise, ugh.

  • Tony

    Bruce, I share your frustration over last night, but blowing a 13-point lead with more than 20 minutes to go in the game on the road in LA isn't exactly the same as some of the collapses the C's had in the fourth quarter during the regular season. I never once felt that they were in control of the game because the LA defense was tough and the C's were getting completely murdered on the boards.

    In the end, this series came down to Ray Allen's 3 for 27 performance in Games 3 and 7, really. I'm not going to whine about the 37-17 FT disparity. It is what it is when the Lakers are involved (from the NBA allowing what was probably a collusive, illegal "trade" with Memphis for Gasol two years ago, to the refs always giving them the benefit of the doubt in the post-season, especially at home).

    One can only wonder what this team could have accomplished over the last three years had KG not injured that knee in Utah in 2009, which altered his career permamently. I hope Ainge resists the urge to keep the group together. They've done all the can do—let Allen go, PRAY that Wallace retires so his money comes off the books, and move on.

  • Tony

    And Bruce….spot on about the Minneapolis titles NOT counting. Puh-lease. Those titles were won pre-shot clock, 1,500 miles away, and moreover, LA never even TRIED to claim them until they moved out of the Forum and launched this latest championship era which began in 2000 with Phil, Shaq and Kobe. They began trying to claim them, it seems, as the Celtics continued to be stuck on 16 titles forever and LA realized that if they added those 5 Minny titles to their LA total they'd be creeping up on Boston's total number of titles.

    Nope…last night was #11 for them, period.

  • Jason

    Great Post Bruce you summed it up perfectly.

  • Jon

    While the officiating wasn't the reason the C's lost last night, can we at least all admit that the NBA's officiating will never- EVER – get the benefit of the doubt after the Kings were hosed in 2002 and Tim Donaghy came out? The NBA doesn't deserve to be seen as anything less than the WWE. They haven't earned it.

  • Lance_

    Tough to watch the 4th last night. I knew I wouldn't be reading any mainstream media today, just another difficult way to end the season despite the fact no one had this team getting out of the 2nd round. Still it's been a very interesting season.

    I trust Ainge a lot and know he has a plan even though I may not like what he does. He's a great GM and Grousbeck is a great owner. If Jacobs would sell the Bruins this town could collectively have the best sports ownership of any city in the country.

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