The Boston Celtics had one hell of a run.
Without question, we will all be inundated the next few days with talking heads on ESPN dissecting every detail of the Finals; what the Lakers did right, what the Celtics did wrong—that sort of thing.
One point that may or may not be discussed, but was painfully transparent, was how Boston ran out of gas in the fourth quarter.
The score was 64-64 with just under six minutes left to play when Doc Rivers' boys hit a wall. Over the next 3:42, the Celtics made just two shots on seven attempts and committed five fouls. The Lakers pulled ahead to a 74-68 lead with just over two minutes left to play.
The game was unofficially over at that point.
You could see it in the sweat on Kevin Garnett's face, as well as in Rasheed Wallace's legs.
These guys were done.
These guys were old .
Garnett, who has played in over 1,200 games (including the playoffs), is 34 but plays at least two years older. Two years and $40 million remain on his contract. He averaged just 15.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game in the series and was generally manhandled by Pau Gasol.
Wallace will turn 36 a month before the start of next season. He has two years and $13 million left on his deal. He was a non-factor not only in the series but all season long.
Paul Pierce is approaching the 1,000-game mark and will turn 33 at the start of next season. He is scheduled to make $21.5 million next year.
When you look at this team's finances for next season, it's hard to overlook only six players are under contract and 74 percent of the team's $63.3 million payroll is invested in two players who should probably retire (Garnett, Wallace) and one who is still good but on the decline (Pierce).
And let's not forget Ray Allen, who shot just 33-90 (37 percent) from the field in the Finals. He turns 35 next month and is a free agent this summer. What does Boston do about him?
There are two ways team president Danny Ainge could play this out. One would be to keep the status quo intact; re-sign Allen at a discount and re-negotiate Pierce's deal to give him three more years in a "we shouldn't be doing this, but you've earned it" thank you card of a contract. Re-sign Tony Allen and then try to land a quality big man with the mid-level exception.
And just ride this car until its wheels fall off.
The other option would be to trade Garnett and let Allen walk. The Celtics could bring in some younger pieces to put alongside Pierce, Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis. This would allow them to contend for the foreseeable future or at the very least until Pierce completely flames out.
Either way, Ainge and the rest of the Celtics brass have some tough decisions ahead.