Posted Jun 2 2012 7:38PM
BOSTON -- They could've used Chris Bosh for the first time since he dropped to his knees and had a very bad gut feeling about his gut. Miami missed him in Game 3 of the East finals, missed his energy and defense and his height against Kevin Garnett, but in this case, the Heat have no business moaning about the high cost of injuries.
That privilege belongs to another Big Three. Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, now they have every right to feel ripped off.
As the midnight hour approaches on their era in Boston, these three, together since 2008, savor their only championship together and also wince about the ones that got away, mainly because they weren't healthy. It's a cautionary tale for a team like the Heat that's built to get multiple shots at a championship but didn't consider the physical toll that might take.
"We're not counting on Chris in this series," LeBron James reminded everyone. "We're preparing as though he's not going to be with us."
Bosh is with the team in Boston but only so he can continue therapy for his abdominal strain with the Heat training staff. Even if Miami moves on to the NBA Finals, there's no guarantee Bosh will be healthy enough to play. If he does play, there is no guarantee he would regain his sharpness in time to be at a high level needed against Oklahoma City or San Antonio.
And Bosh, in the big picture, is a lot less worrisome for Miami than Dwyane Wade, who brings a history of injury issues, is currently playing with tweaky knees and can't make it through a season in one piece.
All it takes is a bout of misfortune and presto, the Heat's Big Three might wind up wishing it could be as successful as KG-Pierce-Allen, because at least they managed to win a title before it all went wrong and key players started reaching for limbs.
The Celtics should have at least two championships this era. Maybe three. But they don't, and that wasn't due to age at first. Luck just wasn't on their side from a health standpoint and that's why the Celtics are feeling deprived.
"I would've loved to see what would have happened had we stayed in one piece our entire time," said Doc Rivers.
The season after their championship, they raced out of the blocks, winning 27 of their first 29. That was the best start in NBA history. Nobody could run with them or defend like them. They claimed 19 straight at one stretch. Something else very unexpectedly and wonderful took place during this time. Rajon Rondo, once the weak link in the starting five, began his gradual climb to respectability.
And then: KG pulled up lame right after the All-Star break, missed the final 25 games, and later was declared done for the playoffs.
The Celtics beat the Bulls in an epic first-round series before losing to Orlando in seven to begin an off-season burdened by a big what-if.
The next season, Garnett was healthy, Rondo was rolling and the Celtics added Rasheed Wallace. Rivers wisely rationed the minutes for his veterans down the stretch to conserve them for a deep post-season run, which lasted all the way to Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Which they had to play without center Kendrick Perkins, who ruined his knee the game before. With Kobe Bryant suffering through a six-for-24 shooting night and the Lakers ripe for the taking, the Celtics lost and once again had to wonder how much, if any, did an injury cost them a title.
And what about now? Well, now they're old and hurt.
How different would this series be if Allen had sturdy ankles? With the exception of his shot in the final seconds of Game 2 that forced overtime, Allen hasn't had a meaningful moment on the floor because shooters need their legs and Allen doesn't have any. And what about Avery Bradley? Suppose he didn't separate his shoulder the last round? Then Boston would bring a lively body and another scoring threat into the mix, but that's nothing but a dream right now.
The reality is the Celtics are down 2-1 and must hope the Heat take another night or two off, as they did in Game 3 when James and no one else showed up.
"These are desperation games," said Garnett. "The tenacity, the desperation has to be there."
The Celtics will go inside to KG early and often Sunday in Game 4, lean on Rondo when the game is tight, pray that Allen can knock down a few threes and count on Pierce to make James work. That could get them another win in this series, maybe two, but not another championship.
KG and Allen and Pierce, like their three counterparts in Miami, never thought their championship run would end at one. They tried. Injuries happened. And now, their time is about up.
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