Boston Celtics: The 15 Best Moments of the Big Three Era
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It could all be over by the end of the week.
The Celtics look to be in pretty good shape following their victory in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday night in Miami. But they still need to win one more game to ensure their third trip to the NBA Finals in the last five years.
Fans can't take anything for granted. Even if the C's do close out the Heat on Thursday night when the series shifts back to Boston, the prospect of the Big Three era coming to a close is ever present.
It could be as soon as Saturday or sometime in the next couple weeks if they make it to the finals and lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Or it could be in the aftermath of a celebration at the franchise's 18th championship.
Regardless, it's going to happen soon. Celtics fans, if they aren't already, should be in full-on appreciation mode at one of the greatest stretches of elite pro basketball in the long, storied history of this storied organization.
So let's get that appreciation started, right here, right now.
15. Eastern Conference First Round Game 7
The C's handled their first real test of the 2008 playoffs with ease.
In the first true test of the Big Three's time together, this group stepped up in a major way.
Facing a Hawks team that sneaked into the No. 8 seed, the Celts let the Hawks stick around, losing all three road games in the series, setting up a critical Game 7 situation.
Luckily for the C's, the game was played at TD Garden in Boston, where they had won 35 games during the regular season and three games in this particular series. They got up early in the first, put a defensive beatdown on Atlanta (26 points allowed in the first half) and coasted to a 99-65 blowout win and a date with the LeBron-led Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The Celts got 22 points from Paul Pierce, 18 points and 11 rebounds in just 27 minutes from Kevin Garnett and held the Hawks to 29 percent shooting for the game. It would be the first of two Game 7's the Celts would have to play en route to a championship that postseason.
14. Ray Allen's First Game-Winning 3
Ray began to bulid his Boston legacy with this three-pointer in Toronto.
On Nov. 4, 2007, the Big Three played their second regular season game together, their first on the road.
It was an overtime affair in Toronto, and Ray Allen scored 33 points to go over 17,000 for his career.
But it was the last three that counted the most.
With the game tied at 95 with 4.4 seconds remaining after a huge three by the Raptors' T.J. Ford, Allen took a pass from Pierce in the left corner and calmly buried a three of his own to give the C's the win.
It was the first of many critical three-pointers Ray would make in his Celtics career and the first one on this list.
13. Pierce Beats the Bulls
Pierce's game winner against the Bulls was one of his best.
It was April 29, 2009 and the Celtics were attempting to defend their championship from the previous summer without Kevin Garnett, who'd been on the shelf for weeks with a knee injury.
The C's were the No. 2 seed in the East that season, and it stood to reason that they would have no trouble in the first round with the very young, upstart Chicago Bulls, since they still had both Pierce and Allen healthy.
But the Bulls, led by rookie point guard Derrick Rose, had other ideas. They gave the C's everything they could possibly handle, taking the series to seven games, forcing the Celtics into multiple overtimes and playing the defending champs to the wire throughout the series.
In Game 5 on that night in April, such a scenario was playing out at the TD Garden. But Pierce, owner of so so many clutch shots in his career (including one of the best on Tuesday night in Miami), came to the rescue, giving the C's a 3-2 advantage in the series.
12. Rondo's Triple-Double Sends the C's to the ECF
Rondo's triple-double against the Sixers helped the C's advance.
Now good and prolific enough to make the Big Three become known as the Big Four, Rajon Rondo has become the master of the triple-double, with his biggest one of the year coming less than two weeks ago.
In Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Sixers, Rondo recorded his ninth career postseason triple-double, tying Wilt Chamberlain for fourth all-time in that category with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
Rondo had just seven points in the first three quarters of the 85-75 win. But when Pierce fouled out of the game with 4:16 left and the C's clinging to a three-point lead, Rondo would go on to outscore Philly by himself (11-7) en route to the win.
Rondo is only the second Celtic to record a triple-double in a Game 7. Larry Bird was the first.
Even though he's recorded a handful of others with bigger, more impressive numbers, that night's performance stands above most every other one in the past five years.
11. KG's First NBA Finals Game
Garnett set the tone for the Celts' Game 1 Finals win in 2008.
On June 5, 2008, the Celtics played their first NBA Finals game since 1987 against a familiar foe: the Los Angeles Lakers. It was also the first finals game for every member of the Big Three and coach Doc Rivers.
And no one stepped up for it like KG.
In just over 40 minutes of action, Garnett scored 24 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and dished three assists. He contributed to Lakers' big man Pau Gasol scoring just 15 points and getting just 11 shots. KG anchored a defense that held L.A. to just 41 percent shooting.
The C's went to KG early, as he scored their first points of the series and set the tone for the entire game, an eventual 98-88 win en route to the C's 17th championship.
10. KG and the C's Send LeBron Packing from Cleveland
KG and the C's ended LeBron's Cleveland career.
Game 6 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Semifinals would prove to be LeBron James' last game as a Cavalier, and it was KG who led the going away party.
After falling behind 2-1 in the series with Game 3 particularly discouraging (a 124-95 loss), the C's proceeded to run the Cavs out of the playoffs, winning the next three games by an average of 17 points. In the clincher, one game after LeBron's notorious tanking job in a 120-88 home loss, Garnett went for 22 points on 11-of-19 shooting to go with 12 boards, and Rondo added 21 points and 12 assists.
It was one of several frustrating games for LeBron in Boston during this Big Three era, a stretch that has continued through these playoffs. But the headline was that it would go on to be his last in a Cavs uniform.
He can thank the Big Three for that.
9. Shrek and Donkey
Big Baby and Nate led the way then cracked everybody up.
This moment doesn't have much to do with any member of the Big Three. But a couple members of their supporting cast picked them up big time.
In Game 4 of the 2010 Finals, the Celtics trailed the Lakers 2-1 after dropping Game 3 on their home floor. In Game 4, they were behind by two headed into the fourth quarter and facing a 3-1 deficit that no team had ever come back from in the history of the NBA Finals.
Enter Glen "Big Baby" Davis and fellow bench mate Nate Robinson. Big Baby scored nine of his 18 points in the fourth quarter, while Robinson added 12 points in just 17 minutes.
The duo offset a 33-point game from Kobe Bryant, leading the C's to a 96-89 win and a trip to the postgame podium, where they would participate in one of the more entertaining interview sessions you'll ever see.
8. Paul Pierce's Wheelchair
Pierce's return sparked the C's game 1 win in the '08 Finals.
Back to Game 1 of the 2008 Finals, which the C's won over the Lakers 98-88.
It's also known as the Paul Pierce wheelchair game. You see, Pierce left the game with an apparently serious knee injury after colliding with Kendrick Perkins in the third quarter.
But he was wheeled back to the court, drawing comparisons to Willis Reed for the Knicks in 1970. Pierce made a pair of three-pointers in a 22-second span, finished the quarter with 15 points and swung the game completely in the Celts' favor.
Lakers fans were all over Pierce for "faking" the injury. Whether he did or not, his leaving and subsequent return spurred the C's to their first NBA Finals win since 1987.
7. The Celts Trade Perk
Perk's trade derailed the Celtics' 2010-2011 season.
On Feb. 24, 2011, the C's traded a key piece of their championship nucleus when they dealt popular center and defensive stalwart Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City.
The repercussions of the deal were felt in Boston almost instantly, as the C's, 41-14 at the time of the trade, would go just 15-12 for the rest of the season and get summarily dismissed from the playoffs in five games by Miami in second round of the playoffs.
Perkins was shaken by the deal, telling reporters afterward, "There was a lot of crying. And a lot of it was me."
KG and his mates weren't exactly thrilled with the deal. Garnett told the media, "It's not even about a teammate. It felt like losing a family member today."
Over a year later, Perk is back in the finals with the Thunder, while the C's are one win away from joining them there.
And what a treat that would be to see Perk and his mentor, KG, tangle in the paint for all the marbles.
6. Ray Goes for 8 Three-Pointers
Allen set a Finals record in Game 2.
The Celtics dropped Game 1 of the 2010 NBA Finals to the Lakers in L.A. but roared back in Game 2 to steal home court advantage.
And they did it behind a record breaking performance by Ray Allen.
Ray buried eight three-pointers in the game, setting a new mark for made three-point field goals in a NBA Finals game and finishing with 32 points on 11-of-20 shooting in a 103-94 win.
The Celts would give home court right back to the Lakers in Game 3 at TD Garden, with Allen the primary culprit.
He made exactly none of his 13 field goal attempts in that one, including all eight from long distance, a game the C's lost 91-84.
But Allen's performance in Game 2 was still one for the ages.
5. Ray Goes for 51
Allen's 51 in game 6 against the Bulls was a career playoff high.
That first round series against the Bulls in 2009 featured so many huge moments from both teams; it's probably one of the most memorable series of this Big Three era.
It's fair to say that the biggest of all the performances came in a loss.
In Game 6, with the Celtics leading 3-2, Allen went for 51 points, a playoff career-high, but it was for naught, as the C's lost an absolute classic, 128-127, in triple overtime.
It was the fourth overtime game of the series and the second that went more than one extra frame (Game 4 went to double OT).
Allen hit nine three-pointers in the game, shooting 18-of-32 from the field and came within three more points of tying John Havlicek's team playoff record.
The C's would go on to close out the Bulls in Game 7, and that one didn't even go to OT.
4. Pierce Passes Bird
With this 3-pointer, Pierce moved into second place on the Celtics all-time scoring list.
Back on Feb. 8, Pierce scored 15 points on 6-of-18 shooting in a mundane 94-84 win over the woeful Charlotte Bobcats.
The game represented a milestone, though—and a big one at that. Pierce passed Larry Bird for second on the Celtics all-time scoring list in this one, moving into second place behind only Havlicek.
At the 10:23 mark of the third quarter, Pierce nailed a three-pointer, giving him 21,792 career points. Bird scored 21,791.
With the scoring mark, Pierce cemented his legacy as one of the five greatest Celtics of all time, along with Bird, Havlicek, Bill Russell and Bob Cousy.
3. The Best Three-Point Shooter Ever
Allen became the league's all-time leading 3-point shooter last season.
On Feb. 10 of last year, Allen became the NBA's all-time leader in three-pointers made when he buried one from the right wing at the 1:48 mark of the first quarter against the Lakers.
It was Allen's 2,561st career three-pointer, and he made that many in 309 fewer games than the man he passed for the record, former Indiana star Reggie Miller.
The fact that Miller was on hand at courtside calling the game for TNT made the record and the circumstances all the more special.
On that night, Allen, who is all over any list of greatest moments in this Big Three era, became the greatest long distance shooter ever.
2. LeBron vs. Pierce
Pierce and LeBron waged a battle for the ages back in 2008.
In what would go down as one of the greatest games in Celtics playoff history, Paul Pierce and LeBron James squared off in a shootout in Game 7 of the 2008 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
LeBron outscored Pierce 45-41, but the Celtics won the game 97-92 and eliminated the Cavs from the postseason in the process.
Pierce was 13-of-23 while James went 14-of-29 from the floor. The fourth quarter featured the two players going virtually shot for shot in a matchup eerily reminiscent of a shootout between Larry Bird and Atlanta's Dominique Wilkins in another Eastern semi Game 7 played in Boston 20 years earlier.
Pierce's total represented the second highest point total in a Game 7 in Celtics' history, behind only Sam Jones's 47 against Cincinnati in 1963.
And it moved the Celts one step closer to what eventually resulted in Banner 17.
1. 2007-2008 World Champions
The 2008 NBA championship highlights this Big Three era.
On June 17, 2008, not even 11 months after completing a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves for Kevin Garnett and just about a year after acquiring Ray Allen from the Seattle SuperSonics, the Boston Celtics, behind those two players and along with Paul Pierce, won their 17th NBA championship, the most in league history.
The game was a blowout, with the C's winning 131-92. The Lakers rolled over in a second quarter that saw Boston outscore them 34-15, and the final margin would represent the biggest spread for a champion in a clinching game in NBA history
Garnett had 26 points and 14 rebounds, Allen added 26, and Pierce scored 17. Pierce took NBA Finals MVP honors in the process.
If the Celtics bring home Banner No. 18 this month, there may be an argument. But for now, June 17, 2008, unquestionably represents the greatest moment of this Big Three era.