Boston Celtics Predictions 2011: Why the Core Four Have One More Title Run Left

Eitan KatzAnalyst IIAugust 5, 2011

Boston Celtics Predictions 2011: Why the Core Four Have One More Title Run Left

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    The Boston Celtics' Core Four of Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are on a quest for their second NBA Title.

    As a group, they have played 401 games together, including the playoffs. They have watched each other suffer serious injury. They have watched each other struggle and they have been there for each other both on and off the court.

    Now, the group will face their ultimate test.

    Garnett is 35 and is on his last legs. This could be the last season for the decorated veteran. How sweet it would be to end it with a title.

    No one is giving the Celtics much of a chance this year, though.

    The Celtics are too old. The Celtics rely on too many injury-prone guys. The Celtics have been past their prime since Garnett went down in 2009.

    What will the Core Four do?

    Will they fight Father Time and make one final push for that second NBA Title, or will they roll over and die?

    With Kevin Garnett on the team, you know there is only one answer: this team will fight to the death.

    Here are five reasons why the Celtics' Core Four can make one more championship push this (hopefully) upcoming NBA season.

5. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen Still Got Game

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    When I say that Paul Pierce and Ray Allen still got game, I mean they still got game.

    Check out these ludicrous numbers:

    Pierce: 14-19 FG, 6-8 3FG, 38 points

    Allen: 11-18 FG, 8-11 3FG, 32 points

    After a full season that saw each aging star play 80 out of a possible 82 games, these two veterans combined for 70 points in the Boston Celtics' Game 3, first round playoff matchup against the much-hyped New York Knicks. In Madison Square Garden no less.

    With the effectiveness and efficiency that these guys display, it would be crazy to say they are getting old.

    Pierce, who has been a Celtic for 13 years and is currently the team captain, struggled with injuries in the 2009-10 NBA season.

    Not last year.

    The Truth shot nearly 50 percent from the field, and hit a multitude of game-winners. I think he'll be fine going forward.

    As for Ray Allen, there is just not much more you can say about the guy. Like a fine wine, Ray-Ray just keeps getting better with age.

    Last season, though, his numbers were beyond good. They were jaw-dropping. A guy who shoots almost exclusively outside jumpers could be expected to hit 43 percent from the field. The great shooters will shoot 45-46 percent from the field, like Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant.

    And then there is Allen, who shot a staggering 49 percent from the field, plus a ridiculous 44.4 percent from 3-point range. Those are both career bests.

    For a 10-time NBA All-Star, setting career bests at the age of 36 is just unfair.

4. The Boston Celtics Were Right There with the Miami Heat Until Rondo's Injury

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    Damn you, Dwyane Wade, for ruining what could have been an epic playoff series.

    When Wade knocked Celtics' point guard Rajon Rondo onto his back, Rondo dislocated his left elbow and basically destroyed any plans the Celtics had at upsetting the mighty Miami Heat Big Three.

    Imagine if Rondo didn't get injured.

    The Celtics went on to win that game pretty handily, with Rondo's reappearance nothing short of a miracle. In Game 4, with the Celtics looking to tie up the series, Boston lost in excruciating fashion. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade just willed their way to victory, an overtime defeat that KO'd the suddenly old Celtics.

    Boston could have just as easily won that game with a healthy Rondo. Then all of the sudden the series is tied and anything can happen.

    My point is, the team hasn't changed much since and they very well could have gotten past the Miami Heat.

    So don't just point to our 4-1 series loss and say, "Look, they are too old and way too slow to keep up."

    No.

    It's just very hard to win a basketball series when your best player has to play with ONE arm.

3. Kevin Garnett's Last Hurrah

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    Do you actually think Kevin Garnett is going to just fall away into the background?

    One of the most intense and maniacal players in NBA history, I expect Garnett to be his usual self this season. That is, I expect him to be the second best defensive player in the league behind Superman, Dwight Howard.

    This is most likely Garnett's last season.

    Boston Celtics' general manager Danny Ainge has set up the player contracts nicely so that the team has a chance to rebuild in the summer of 2012. Garnett and Allen's contracts will both be up. I expect Garnett to walk, but not because he can't play anymore.

    KG will leave when he can no longer play the game at the highest level.

    And believe it or not, the "Big Ticket" is still performing at a high rate. The 15 PPG and 9 RPG are solid, but it is his ability to unify the team and play basketball the way it is meant to be played that separates Garnett from your average power forward.

    In what will almost undoubtedly be his last season, I expect KG to literally leave is blood, sweat and tears on the floor every night until that Larry O'Brien Trophy is raised.

2. Rajon Rondo Is the Boston Celtics' Ringleader

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    Rajon Rondo is the team's ringleader. I don't think there is a doubt in anyone's mind that he is the best player on the 2011-12 Boston Celtics.

    He can run the fast break as well as any point guard in the league, he can drop 20 dimes on any given night and his defensive adeptness can cause tons of tipped passes and turnovers.

    As you can see, he can basically do it all. Except shoot.

    Since draft night, Rondo has always been known as the guy with the terrible jump shot. But while the shot has improved (mostly), it is Rondo's free-throw shooting that is the biggest area of concern.

    Let me explain.

    When a player has a lightning quick first step like Rondo, he is very prone to drawing contact on his path up to the rim. Most big men in the NBA would rather see you shoot two freebies than unleash a vicious poster dunk on their noggin. 

    With almost any guard, getting to the free throw line is encouraged. But because of Rondo's struggles, he shies away from the rim, and therefore negates his own quickness.

    Confusing, I know, but basically Rondo's inability to shoot free throws is causing him to settle for jumpers instead of attacking the rim. Which, if you have watched Rondo play for a while you know, is when he is at his best.

    At the age of 25, I expect this to be the year he finally puts it all together.

    We have seen it in flashes, like the famous Cleveland Cavaliers' playoff game in 2010, but we really haven't seen it over the course of an entire season. This is Rondo's last chance to prove to the front office that he is ready to lead this team once all the older guys leave next summer.

    I think he's going to do it.

1. Boston Celtics' Core Four Deserve Happy Ending

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    There is no group of players in the last four years that has had to fight through as much adversity as the Boston Celtics' Core Four has in their quest for a ring.

    Do the Miami Heat have their issues? Sure, but it's only been one year.

    This group has had to fight through constant injury problems for Kevin Garnett, Game 7 defeats, and the agonizing reality that they lost their starting center in Game 6 of a Finals' series they led at the time, 3-2.

    Usually, a team fights through heartbreak to find glory.

    With the Celtics, it was the other way around. The glory of Banner 17 was surreal.

    But boy, has the heartbreak been brutal.

    In 2009, Garnett's knee injuries began and the Celtics (sans KG) blew a 3-2 series lead to the Orlando Magic in the second round of the playoffs. In 2010, the C's lost in a Game 7 to their hated rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers, after the aforementioned Kendrick Perkins injury.

    Last year, they looked primed to go seven games with superb Miami Heat before Rajon Rondo collapsed on his left elbow.

    The point is this: soon, there will be no Core Four.

    No more Ray Allen, the greatest shooter in the history of mankind. No more Kevin Garnett, one of the most ferocious competitors in all of sports. And no more Paul Pierce, one of the few athletes today who stayed with a struggling franchise through thick and thin and made his way to the mountaintop in 2007.

    These three are leaving the game. With Rondo as their guide, they will leave as NBA Champions.

     

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    Thanks for reading!