To quote the great Phil Collins, "I can feel it coming in the air tonight," and they did. The Heat kept coming as Boston faded and the lack of competent role players reared its ugly head. The loss of Jeff Green, Jermaine O'Neal, Chris Wilcox and, most importantly, Avery Bradley fed into it. All were lost to various season-ending surgeries and contributed to the end of the real "Big Three" Era.
In fact, practically the whole Celtic run was marred by injury and the inability to have continuity with the role players.
It started with Leon Powe, who was never able to recover from a second devastating knee injury. Then Kendrick Perkins blew his knee in the 2010 NBA Finals and was replaced by a wholly uninterested and out-of-shape Rasheed Wallace. It was a miracle they made it that far, because Wallace was poison in the locker room. KG was clearly disappointed in his friends performance while wearing the green.
The 2011 playoffs saw the Celtics lose Rajon Rondo to a devastating elbow injury and again an all-important piece was taken from them. If we could use the way-back machine and fix those things, we might be talking about a team with three or four championships. But that is just speculation based on nothing but an opinion.
Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers are now left with a mercurial and oft-maligned point guard whom they have been trying to trade for six years. They are clearly not having any such thoughts anymore, as the league and the Celtics now see a superstar on the rise.
Make no mistake, Rajon Rondo is the premier point guard in the NBA. He is a walking triple-double.
Just like Reggie Jackson of baseball fame was called Mr. October for his amazing feats during the pennant chase, Rondo is called "Mr. Triple Double" because of his penchant for doing just that during the postseason. He had 21 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists in this Game 7 loss.
Boston was unsure that they would be able to attract free agents after the "Big Three" had left. They made re-signing their head coach a priority. Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, he is now the highest-paid head coach in the NBA. He has earned every penny with what he brought out of this group of Celtics.
The Celtic brass now has two chips in their corner to bring in the necessary parts to keep them in contention: Rondo and Doc Rivers. The former has the more playoff experience than any other young superstar in the league, and he is only 26 years old. They have a player who won't be rattled in crucial game situations.
Even LeBron acknowledged his greatness, as he coyly tapped him in Game 6—the ultimate respect from The Man.
We don't know what the team will look like next year in terms of personnel, but the legacy the Big Three left by restoring Celtic Pride cannot be dismissed. Kevin Garnett's DNA infused a proud and storied franchise with the only thing that could remove the tarnish: the gold ball, a championship ring and the blue print for banner No. 18.
So we will celebrate them with a twinge of sadness and a wry smile on our faces, knowing that we saw—as KG so eloquently put it—an all "grit and balls" effort in Game 7. The Miami Heat had to pull the plug on this prideful group, for they did not go gently into the night.