For Celtics fans like myself, the loss in Game Seven was painful to endure. It was not just that they lost—but how they lost.
I love the Celtics too much. This hurts too much.
The rebounding made this loss sting as much as the 2007 Super Bowl. To give up 23 offensive rebounds is inexcusable. In Game Seven, you box out and you win the ball. The Celtics failed to do this throughout—and got burned.
Sure, Perkins would have made a difference, but this was a matter of fundamentals. You can play your heart out, but if you don't box out, the ball is not coming your way. The Celtics got pushed around and bullied inside. Just like football, the game is won in the trenches, and the Lakers controlled the pace last night.
The C's were plagued all year by not being able to close, and this problem reared its ugly head again last night.
At the end of the first half, Boston had the chance to hold for the final shot and take a commanding eight or nine point lead. Instead, they turned the ball over on a lazy outlet pass and failed to close out the half after a hot start.
Boston's 13-point lead in the third quarter evaporated and after holding the Lakers all night they gave up a 30 point fourth which ended the game.
In the fourth, it all came crashing down, one big blow after the other.
Ron Artest, the ultimate villain (and arguably most hated man in the NBA), hits a big three.
Pau Gasol, the man we pushed around in the 2008 Finals and who was photographed boarding the Laker plane with a man purse, controlled a key offensive board through hustle and will.
And the icing on the cake—Sasha Vujacic. The ridiculous player we loved to laugh at comes on and drills two free throws to clinch the game.
This was my hell.
The 2010 Celtics were not the 2008 Celtics.
There wasn't the passion, the magic, and that feeling that winning was inevitable.
We didn't out-hustle.
We didn't show resiliency.
KG was not in spider mode.
Eddie House was not there to drain a key three.
There was no James Posey, Leon Powe, or PJ Brown to come off the bench to make big plays.
Instead, there was Nate Robinson, Rasheed Wallace, and Marquis Daniels. Sheed played his heart out and gave everything he had, but these three are not like the bench in 2008.
In my mind, these are not guys who form a group that win a championship.
Game Seven was right there for the taking, and the Celtics watched it slip away. Ray Allen, who fantastically defended Bryant in a gutsy defensive performance, missed open three after open three, in addition to stupidly fouling Kobe on a corner three, handing the Lakers automatic points in the fourth quarter.
The officiating was not the best, but it is ridiculous for Boston fans to place the blame on the referees. This was a winnable game—and we choked.
I love this team with all my heart, but there is no way around it. That NBA title was served up to us on a silver platter, and we put our napkins on the table and said "No Thanks."
Sadly, this was Boston's last chance for a title for several years to come. The Big Three gave all that they had these playoffs, but just didn't have it in the tank. The Celtics squad from 2008-2010 is one of my favorites in all of sports, but the time has come to dismantle it and rebuild.
The Celtics have seven unrestricted free agents, and most of those should be allowed to walk. Marquis Daniels, Michael Finley, Sheldon Williams, and Brian Scalabrine (my favorite NBA player in history) are no-brainer goodbyes.
Nate Robinson, although he proved to be a spark in the playoffs, should not be resigned either.
The guy is suited to be a Knick, not a champion.
And of course, there is Ray Allen. It will be horribly painful, but the time has come for Ray to move on and the Big Three to break up. The window for winning with this group has passed. The Celtics will lose a brother, but it is something that must be done for the future.
Shaky years are likely on the way, but all is not lost.
Rebuilding must start now, beginning in a week at the NBA Draft.
The Celtics hold the 19th overall pick, a place where a Rondo, Leon, or Glen Davis can come into the fold.
It's going to be a long summer with lots of doubts, but that is basketball.
The Celtics just didn't have it in them in Game Seven, and I can safely say that it was absolutely brutal to watch as a fan.
This group of guys has been part of my family for the last three years, and it pains me to say that the time has come to move on.
Boston, it hurts.