The End of an Era; The Beginning of an Era

James driving past Pierce and Garnett

James and the Heat conquer the Celtics

Miami Big 3 ends Boston Big 3 Era

Miami’s victory over Boston in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals is the start of one era and the end of another.  Interestingly enough, LeBron left Cleveland in order to be able to beat a Boston team that owned his Cavaliers teams.  The NBA playoffs is littered
with history of teams that learn how to win championships by failing in the playoffs, earning championship capital bit by bit with each succesive defeat.  It’s just that in the past, it was the teams themselves that retooled before undertaking the task of seeking a championship again.  In LeBron’s case, his Cavaliers team lost to Boston on two different occasions in the NBA playoffs and LeBron quickly realized that he could not win a championship in
Cleveland as long as Boston had the Big Three.  He needed better talent.  So when you can’t beat them, join them.  Having lost faith in Dan Gilbert and the rest of the brass in Cleveland, he decided to “take his talents to South Beach” and formed a copy-cat Big Three consisting of Bosh, Wade and himself.

The formation of the Heat’s Big Three followed a radically different model than the formation of the Celtic big three.  Ex-Celtic teammates Danny Ainge and Kevin McHale were key players in the trade that sent the Big Ticket to Boston 5 years ago for a hoard of Celtic players, picks, and who knows what else.  Boston also agreed to send KG’s teammate Wally Sczerbiak to Seattle (the third team in the trade) in a package that brought Ray Allen to the Celtics.  The Celtics Big Three was forged the old fashioned way, via trades and back-room deals between the owners, the way teams were traditionally built.

The formation of the Heat’s Big Three was based on a completely different approach.  LeBron, Wade, and Chris Bosh agreed to all sign for the same Heat when they became free agents.  It was the players, rather than the owners, driving the formation of the team. While Miami’s Big Three were vilified for taking this approach, it represented a radical departure from the status quo. It illustrated that high profile players could game the system and collectively make the decisions that affects their future, to decide themselves how they wanted to reconfigure teams to better position themselves to win a championship.  (Of course the new Big Three’s biggest mistake was to boldly announce that they would not one championship but two, or three, etc.)

This is why LeBron’s reacted so emotionally last year when the Heat vanquished the Celtics in 5 games in the second round.  For him, on an emotional level, it’s was
as if he head slayed the monster that had caused him so much pain.  In hindsight, the Heat collapse in the Finals against Dallas seemed like an inevitable emotional downfall from having beaten Boston.  LeBron still hadn’t suffered enough to win yet; it was as if the basketball gods still needed to exact more taxes from him before awarding him a championship.

When Celtics Big Three surged again this year against all odds and took a 3-2 lead on LeBron’s Heat, James had had enough.  He produced an epic playoff performance in Game 6 by scoring 45 points, 15 rebounds, 5 assists in nearly 45 minutes.  He only sat down in garbage time, the damage inflicted upon the Celtics thoroughly complete.

Game 7 proved to be quite an entertaining affair, completely unlike the Game 6 blowout  The proud veteran Boston team held a lead at half and partly into the 3rd quarter.  When Miami finally caught up in the middle of the third quarter, Boston held it together for another 8 minutes, as the game see-sawed back and forth.  Miami finally got the upper hand on one of Chris Bosh’s innumerable three pointers to take an 88-82 lead with about 7 minutes of the fourth quarter.   From then on, Miami’s Big Three scored all of Miami’s point.  LeBron scored in all matter of ways during the critical stretch: dunking at the rim, raining a 30 ft jumper, shooting an off-balance bank-shot runner with Bass in his face.   Even the much maligned Wade got into the act with a couple of big buckets down the stretch.

Most importantly for the Heat, the best player of their Big Three, LeBron James, grew up by leaps and bounds in this Series.  He dominated Game 6 like the best dominant players in NBA history.  He is no longer afraid to take charge at the end of close games (such as Game 7 of this series and Game 4 of the Indiana series). He finally appears to have shed whatever insecurity he had.  He is dominating like the greatest player in the world.

The end for the Celtic Big Three in this Game 7 was reminiscent of their Game 7 NBA Finals loss to the Lakers a couple of years ago.  Decimated by injuries, Boston was
undone by their strategy to get physical with the Heat.  In the end, they just had nothing left.  Rondo was the only player with anything left (he recorded yet another triple double).  The Celtics Big Three were running on fumes and it showed.  Neither Garnett, Pierce, or Allen could hit a shot down the stretch and they couldn’t defend inside or outside either

So now Miami tries for that elusive championship for a second year in a row.  Their Big Three era is just starting, but their promise to the world to win multiple championships
together will increase the urgency to win their first this year.  But after having conquered the Celtics team making their last run, they’re more battle tested than the Thunder.
With a grown up LeBron, Bosh back to form, they should prevail in the Finals.

The future of Boston’s Big Three is uncertain.  Only Pierce is under contract.  It’s rumored that Garnett may retire.  As far as Allen, despite stating that his legs “had years of basketball left”, he may opt that those years be with someone else.

If the dismantling of the Celtics does happen, it has been a fun ride.  The Big Three won it all once, finished second another time, played in more playoff games during a five year
stretch, and were eliminated only once in less than 7 games.  Playing together in Boston, KG, Pierce, and Allen, under the leadership of Doc Rivers, proved they were relevant and
important players.  But most importantly they were each able to win a championship after all having illustrious careers with non contenders.  For a long time suffering KG fan,
I’m finally glad that the Big Ticket got his ring.

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