R.I.P. To The Celtics As We Know Them

It’s been a week since my beloved Celtics were eliminated at the hand of the Knicks. Now a few games into the second round; it’s weird not having the Celtics around this time of the year.

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They haven’t been eliminated this early in the season since 2007, back when I was 14. Which, if you think about it, is pretty amazing. I remember the excitement of putting the “Big Three” together, and the hopes of winning a championship; yet having the realistic expectation that this union wouldn’t last long. “A three year plan,” they said.

And then Pierce and Garnett and Allen went out and won the title in their first year together. Suddenly there were thoughts of a dynasty, ruling the Eastern Conference and winning multiple rings. But it never happened. Injuries, more injuries and the rise of LeBron held the Big Three and the Celtics to just that one, glorious championship.

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Not that this series wasn’t a surprise; I fully expected them to lose. I even picked them to lose, as much as I didn’t want to. But it didn’t make it hurt any less. Despite the jokes on twitter, I still held out hope they could somehow make a stand.

May 3, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics center Kevin Garnett (5) heads to the bench during a break in the action against the New York Knicks in game six of the first round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. The New York Knicks defeated the Celtics 88-80. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

In the end, they kind of did. They won 2 games after being down 3 games to 0 to bring Game 6 to Boston. Then they made the ridiculous run in the fourth quarter to somehow cut the lead to 4. But it wasn’t enough. They ran out of gas in the final few minutes and ended up losing the series 4-2.

It was a fair result, given the talent of the two teams involved. And in a way, it was a fitting way to close out the season, and possibly this era. They fought hard, but ultimately couldn’t overcome their injuries and the superior competition.

This was what we had come to expect from this group. Six years into the “three year plan,” Pierce and Garnett (albeit without Allen this year) were still around, giving everything they had. Sacrificing who-knows-what to make one last fleeting run at an elusive second ring. And they came pretty close a few times. Every year since 2008 they faced set backs. But every year, try as they might, they couldn’t quite overcome. And this year was no exception.

But at the same time, this year was different. There was no Allen. There was no Rondo, following his torn ACL. Pierce and Garnett clearly just weren’t the same. There was no real hope for winning the first round series for the first time since this group had come together.

Like it or not, the era was ending. There’s a good chance Pierce and Garnett won’t be back next year. Even if they do come back, it won’t be the same. There are no more titles to win, at least not for the brief future. And if it truly is the end, if that was actually the last I’ll see of Pierce and Garnett together in Celtics green and white, I’ll be incredibly sad. But it was a thrilling six years filled with many memorable moments, capped off fittingly with a similarly thrilling run that came up predictably short.

And for that, I am thankful: for Doc and his leadership that held everything together, for Ray and his three-pointers (even if he did leave to join LeBron), for Garnett and his undying intensity and devotion to his craft, and for Pierce and all the big shots he’s hit over his 14 years in Boston.

Sure, all of this only brought one title, but I couldn’t have asked for anything more.