The original new-era Big Three in Boston had won their only NBA title in 2008. The trio has brought championship basketball back to the TD Garden, returning the Celtics where they belonged, after not making the Finals for 21 years.
The trio was formed by GM Danny Ainge. First, he acquired All-Star shooting guard Ray Allen, just to follow it up with the largest trade for one player the league has ever seen. The C’s acquired Kevin Garnett, sending a five-players-package centered around Al Jefferson, with draft picks and cash consideration as a cherry on top.
This marked the greatest one-season turnaround we’ve seen. The Celtics went from picking fifth in the NBA draft, to have the best regular-season record, becoming favorites to win it all. As their record suggested, it wasn’t an awkward fit for the three. They were all about the same things; hard work, team basketball, tough defense, and unrivaled resistance on their path to the end goal.
With the help of on-the-rise Rajon Rondo, the established vets had a fantastic year together, capping it off with all three becoming All-Stars, KG becoming NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, with the man behind it all Danny Ainge becoming NBA’s Executive of the Year. The ultimate goal was eventually achieved – the Boston Celtics became NBA champs for the first time since 1986.
As dominant as those Celtics were, their playoff run record-wise was far from impressive. They became the team with the worst Playoff record to ever win a title, going 16-10 on their postseason run. The infamous record previously held by the 1988 Lakers now had the Celtics name to it.
The Celts were first pushed to seven games by the 37-46 Atlanta Hawks. It was a series of the home-court advantage, as no team had won a single road game. What was a very close series, ended up with Boston’s blowout over the Hawks, holding them to 65 points and advancing to the second round matchup vs. LeBron‘s Cavaliers.
The series vs. the Cavs was a carbon copy of their first-round matchup, as both teams took care of business in front of their home fans. It all came down to a game 7 in TD Garden, where one of the most excellent individual game seven duels happened. The C’s advanced to the Conference Finals, following Pierce’s stellar 41 points performance, as only Garnett being the other Boston player to score in double digits. LeBron answered with 45 points on his own, but couldn’t do it by himself, hitting the Big Three wall for the first time in his first run with Cleveland.
They faced the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals. It was a hard-fought defensive-minded series, with both teams averaging around 90 PPG. It wasn’t a display of beautiful offensive NBA basketball, but more about gritty, grueling, and disruptive efforts to defend the basket. The Celtics coped better with it, winning game 6 in The Palace of Auburn Hills, advancing to the NBA Finals, where they would face their arch-nemesis for the 11th time.
The Lakers pushed the C’s to six games, but their efforts weren’t enough to overcome the power of the Big Three. The first five games of the series were very close, but Allen’s seven triples showdown in game 6 was too much for Kobe‘s Lakers, as the Celtics clinched their 17th NBA championship in a 131-92 blowout.
They didn’t win their title in a dominating fashion, as all series went at least to six games. It was a grueling playoffs experience, historically grueling, in fact. But they got the job done. In the end, that’s all that mattered for them and their fans.
You could say they were the worst among the bests. I say it’s important to be among the bests. Every NBA team would’ve switched places with the Celtics that year. No one would care about the infamous record, because it would’ve meant that they’d won an NBA title.
It doesn’t make their playoff run any less impressive in my eyes. Whether it took them a few games more or less, it’s less important. It may have even made the celebration that more special. It’s about the journey, more than the destination.