By Brad Thompson–
CHICAGO (WSCR) The Miami Heat made quick work of the reigning Eastern Conference champions by defeating Boston 4-1 in a second-round playoff series. Although the series lasted only five games, it was grueling from start to finish. In the end, the new Big 3 were too much for the old Big 3.
The Celtics got beat by the same formula that was responsible for their greatness. In the summer of 2007 Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen came to Boston and joined forces with Paul Pierce, forming the Celtics’ Big 3. Since then Boston, with its trio of All-Stars, has been the favorite in the Eastern Conference. They reached the Finals in two out of three seasons and won the title in 2008, their first season together.
Garnett, Pierce and Allen formed a super squad that was only derailed by Dwight Howard and injuries to the Celtics during the 2008-2009 playoffs. Boston’s formidable threesome countered other teams who had a 1-2 punch with an all-important third option. It proved to be a lethal combination.
This off-season Miami replicated this three-superstar design. The difference between the Celtics’ trio and Miami’s is how it came together. Allen and Garnett were traded to Boston, while LeBron James and Chris Bosh decided to take their skills to Miami via free agency.
After Miami’s Game 5 win, both James and Dwyane Wade referenced Boston’s three-star model.
“The Boston Celtics laid the blueprint for us, to show us how to do it,” said Wade. “Hopefully we can continue to carry on the blueprint that they laid.”
James said, “Boston’s the reason why all three of us came together, because of what they did, that blueprint they had in ’08 when they all came together.”
The trio of Wade, James and Bosh was simply too much for the aging, injury-riddled Celtics. As much grit and toughness as Boston showed, they were clearly out matched. For most of the series Wade and James were shooting lay-ups and free throws while Garnett and Allen were clanging outside jumpers.
Never was Miami’s athleticism and talent more evident than at the end of Game 4 and 5. In both cases, the normally clutch Celtics wilted and the Heat shined. In Game 5, with Boston leading 87-81, the Heat went on a 16-0 run to finish the game and the Celtics season. James drilled two huge 3-pointers and scored the final 10 points for Miami.
Although not from lack of effort, the prideful Celtics couldn’t overcome injuries or age. The cards seemed stacked against Boston after All-Star Rajon Rondo dislocated his elbow in Game 3. Shaquille O’Neal played sparingly in two games and had no impact on the series. Jermaine O’Neal, Delonte West, Allen and Pierce all played through injuries. Maybe the series would have been different if the Celtics weren’t so banged up, but Miami was clearly the better team.
Boston players and Coach Doc Rivers vowed to return strong next season. And while the Celtics aren’t going away, they are no longer the big, bad bully. They are no longer the team to beat in the East. Miami’s Big 3 took away those labels by dismantling Boston’s Big 3. With that said, Miami hasn’t won anything yet. They still have to deal with either Chicago or Atlanta to reach the Finals, but knocking off the Celtics in impressive fashion was a giant step for the Heatles.
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Brad M. Thompson, a former college football player and coach, made his return to the Midwest in 2009 after fighting wildfires out West. He earned his master’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and covers the Big Ten Conference and Chicago sports. Follow him on Twitter at @Brad_M_Thompson. Find more of Brad’s blogs here.