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Why did Celtics win their first year together while Heat fell short, Clippers struggle?

Mar 12, 2012, 10:19 PM EDT

Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett Getty Images

The Boston Celtics have been the model.

In 2008 they brought together a big three — Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen coming in to join Paul Pierce — and that first year they won a title. It was instant success, they were the team to beat in the NBA that season from day one.

Last year the big three in Miami struggled at the start of the season and while they hit a stride the fell short in the finals. This year the Clippers have put together a powerhouse lineup but of late they have struggled to defend consistently and play well at the ends of games.

Why was Boston different? Doc Rivers has a theory.

“One thing we had, that in my opinion is different than Miami and the Clippers, we had guys who were veterans,” Rivers said. “They already had their day, you know what I man? So from a coaching standpoint, at least with that group, it was easy to get them to buy in, to let go of some shots, to forfeit some minutes, and defending, being a team defense.

“When you have younger guys that’s not as easy. They think it’s going to last forever and the urgency is not there. We had a group that had a sense of urgency about them. I think Miami has that this year, you can see it in the way they play.”

He goes on to say he expects the Clippers to get it together, but that they really miss the veteran leadership on the court and in the locker room of Chauncey Billups.

The Heat look like a team that has learned its lesson and is ready to challenge for a title. The Clippers look like Oklahoma City did a year or tow ago — very talented, you can see a path to title contention, but they have to grow into that (and get a few key role players).

But it’s going to be very difficult for any team to match the instant success Boston had.

  1. jjordannba - Mar 12, 2012 at 10:30 PM

    Finally an article that pays some respect to the 1st team to bring in a “big 3” and win immediately. Its not as simple as just throwing a bunch of talent on a team and thinking they can steamroll through the league, the Boston Celtics played real team ball. & whats up with these new “super-teams” and why they think it all comes so easy?

  2. juanh7248 - Mar 12, 2012 at 10:35 PM

    Boston’s Big 3 had more diverse skills than Miami’s Wade & Lebron do the same things. Plus, Boston had Rondo & Perkins at the 1 & 5 spots which is way better than what Miami had last yr & even now.

    ’08 Celtics fit better together & had better complimentary pieces

    • jjordannba - Mar 12, 2012 at 10:42 PM

      not to mention the bench which had James Posey, Pj Brown, Sam Cassell, and Eddie House. Doesn’t sound like much but all those players were BIG in that championship run

      • francislindayag - Mar 14, 2012 at 5:50 AM

        I must agree. The Celtics that won the 2008 world title is a talent and veteran-laden group from the starters up to the weakest link on the bench. They were all unselfish. Plus they played great defense.

    • minnesota32 - Mar 12, 2012 at 10:55 PM

      I dont think it has because they had a more diverse skills at all, I think what it came down to was, like you said, having Rondo and Perkins. Even though Rondo was young and not as good as he is now, he was still a better pg than chalmers is now and joel anthony cant compare to kendrick perkins. Plus, they had the perfect role players to get the job done with tony allen james posey eddie house glen davis and even leon powe.

    • abasketballthing - Mar 12, 2012 at 11:05 PM

      Exactly. They fit better than any of the other “super teams” that have been built since. They had a perfect balance of skills, where each player brought something different and very necessary to the table. The other teams have just tried to get superstar players together and then figure out how to make it all work.

      Also, they had a very good coaching staff in place that fit the team’s talents and personalities.

  3. eureca323 - Mar 12, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    Celtics won their first year together because Andrew Bynum was out for the finals and Trevor Ariza was not fully back yet from a broken leg so Radmanovic had to guard Pierce and hand him the finals MVP.

    • bbgraf08 - Mar 12, 2012 at 10:53 PM

      Coulda woulda shoulda. You could argue that the Celtics lost in 2010 because they didn’t have Perkins, but then again, that argument would be just as worthless as yours.

    • Mr. Wright 212 - Mar 13, 2012 at 9:02 AM

      Bynum and Ariza being out was the difference.

      And Perkins missing 2010 mattered little, considering how OFF Kobe was in the game.

      • bbgraf08 - Mar 13, 2012 at 12:30 PM

        Mr. Wright:

        Did you watch game 7? Celtics got dominated in the 2nd half on the boards, allowing LA to come back from a 12 point half time deficit and win the game and series.

        Either way–worthless arguments. Both teams lost without the help of important players.

    • orlowk - Mar 13, 2012 at 10:51 AM

      Yah, that’s all that was too it? Hum….

  4. abasketballthing - Mar 12, 2012 at 11:08 PM

    The Clippers are not a super team. They’re just a good team that sucks on defense. They don’t have good defensive players or coaching. They’ll figure the offense out, but with that roster, their defense will continue to keep them from contending for at least two years.

  5. lakerluver - Mar 12, 2012 at 11:10 PM

    Veteran players with defined roles who put aside their egos for the sake of winning a title. The C’s were a little cocky when they came together but I don’t recall them predicting multiple titles like “King” James did. That Boston team was one of the best defensive teams I’ve ever seen.

  6. canehouse - Mar 12, 2012 at 11:27 PM

    The Heat were also hit with the injury bug with Miller and Haslem… Chalmers was still finding his role and he also battled some injuries. They also didn’t have a player to the quality of Battier! Cole has also been far better than the long in the tooth Bibby. And yes the “Big Three” have also had time to mend their different unique skills into a seamless flow.

    • francislindayag - Mar 14, 2012 at 5:55 AM

      The Celtics 2007-08 are mostly veterans. The Heat 2010-11 are focused on the young Big 3. So there’s a big difference. Plus Spoelstra is also a young coach with little experience at that time. But the Heat now are still learning how to win . They will compete for the title for the next 6 to 8 years. On the contrary, the Boston Big 3 is built to win the title for at most 3 years. So there is a big difference.

  7. glink123 - Mar 12, 2012 at 11:37 PM

    Let’s be completely honest here. Eric Spoelstra is no Doc Rivers. Spoelstra shows me nothing with X’s and O’s. He’s a former video grunt, for christ’s sakes.

    • david8726 - Mar 13, 2012 at 3:32 AM

      So what if he was a former video grunt? No one starts off at the top of the food chain.

      The guy worked his ass off and became an assistant coach (who has been given a good deal of credit for helping to turn DWade into the player he is today by working with him as a young player). Pat Riley himself thought he was so good at his job that he was worthy of being his successor.

      Spoelstra isn’t the best coach in the league, but he shouldn’t be downplayed either. The team has been rock solid defensively under his leadership, their offense HAS improved this year, and the man maintained a cool, calm demeanor in every situation. He has never appeared intimidated by coaching the kind of talent on his team, either.

    • francislindayag - Mar 14, 2012 at 5:59 AM

      I’m not a Heat fan but Spoelstra’s doing a very good job since their Big 3 era. Give him credit. Pat Riley is not stupid to hire Spoelstra as head coach. As of now, he’s doing a good job of handling the team.

  8. goforthanddie - Mar 12, 2012 at 11:38 PM

    Boston had a better Big 3 and a better team behind them.

    • david8726 - Mar 13, 2012 at 3:49 AM

      Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and KG is not a better big 3 than Dwade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh. No chance.

      If you want evidence, please see last years 4-1 Heat victory over Boston. Also, common sense.

      • orlowk - Mar 13, 2012 at 10:56 AM

        Boston’s big three have a championship and the Heat doesn’t. The details and stats are pointless.

      • GT - Mar 13, 2012 at 1:49 PM

        This is your actual comment and not a joke? Credibility meter is reading zero.

      • david8726 - Mar 13, 2012 at 3:53 PM

        What, you think it’s an invalid argument for me to (correctly) point out that the Heat’s big 3 smashed Boston’s face 4-1 last year in the playoffs?

        Facts are facts. The Heat’s big 3 owned the Celtics big 3 when they played each other last year.

      • dadaboi - Mar 14, 2012 at 1:05 AM

        orlowk – Mar 13, 2012 at 10:56 AM
        Boston’s big three have a championship and the Heat doesn’t. The details and stats are pointless.

        — Wow. Your stupidity is so high I can’t even measure it. Since when did championships become a determinant of which is better? Using your logic, Horry + Fisher is better than Stockton + Malone. What a moron.

  9. myownwerstenmy - Mar 12, 2012 at 11:47 PM

    Ill take Lebron is a choke artist and douche for $500 Alex!

  10. md23rewlz - Mar 13, 2012 at 2:11 AM

    I know this is a boring answer, but really, there is no reason other than the weird way that sports work. Miami rolled through the playoffs, won Game 1 of the Finals, should have won Game 2, won Game 3, had a lead late in Game 4, got caught in a historic barrage of 3 pointers in Game 5, and by Game 6 Dallas was playing with far more confidence and had all the momentum (and even then, it was a close game for almost the entire duration). You can microanalyze all you want when it comes to James’s no-shows or “lack of a veteran presence” (which simply isn’t true–Wade had a ring, and James had made multiple deep playoff runs, it’s not like they were raw), but it really just comes down to the fact that Dallas executed a little better as the series went along, and Miami couldn’t quite hold onto some of their multiple late leads. It’s not like Miami was fundamentally flawed. But for a few plays here and there, they would have won a championship. Because of what happened in the Finals, it’s easy to overlook that they were absolutely rolling through everybody in the playoffs up until the 5:30 mark of the fourth quarter in Game 2 against Dallas. You play that series ten times, I think Miami wins it eight or nine. They were a better team than Dallas (I say this as a Mavs fan who knows first hand that heading into the playoffs, NOBODY was thinking about Dallas as a title contender). Sports are weird. Sometimes things just happen.

  11. patsfiend - Mar 13, 2012 at 2:23 AM

    None of Boston’s big 3 would shrink from the moment like Lebron has when the chips are on the table. They were too experienced and just wanted it more… and they weren’t old skeletons with their hearts ripped out by Ainge yet.

    • 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 13, 2012 at 8:17 AM

      Then why was it left for PJ Brown to save them vs the Cavs?

      • patsfiend - Mar 13, 2012 at 11:10 AM

        He was a veteran, too. Usually there’s a couple games where a guy comes out of nowhere to help. Like… Leon Powe!

  12. 00maltliquor - Mar 13, 2012 at 3:10 AM

    Bozo, where you at, buddy? I thought you would be all over this by now! Let ’em have it!

  13. david8726 - Mar 13, 2012 at 3:48 AM

    I don’t see how Doc can say that there was an appreciable difference in veteran leadership between the Heat and Celtics last year.

    Last year’s Heat roster was one of the oldest in the league. Basically everyone except Chalmers and Anthony were veterans with 8+ years of experience.

    The big 3 themselves were all 8 year vets, and none of them ever appeared to let ego or a desire for stats prevent them from buying into a team concept (the way an inexperienced player might). They all sacrificed touches for the good of the team and bought into the defense-first approach of the Heat from day one.

    The Heat came up short due to three things, I think –

    1. Injuries. Haslem and Miller were both out for almost the entirety of the regular season. Even when they came back in the playoffs they were shells of themselves and could barely contribute in the Finals.

    2. Mike Bibby. Statistically, he had one of the worst playoff runs of all time for a starting player. He was absolutely atrocious in the Finals. His 3 point shot simply disappeared. Without that, he was useless.

    3. LeBron didn’t perform up to expectations in several finals games. This has been covered ad nauseum elsewhere, of course.

    With all that being said, it’s not like the Heat shouldn’t be considered a year one success. Did they actually win the finals? No. But finishing ahead of 29 out of 30 teams and being only 2 wins away from a title is pretty damn successful by any reasonable standard.

    • southbeachtalent - Mar 13, 2012 at 12:05 PM

      Agree completely. All facts.

      Apparently we are to win every game, championship until the team breaks up.

      The Celtics had good fortune in the Finals, and had great depth. We on the other hand met a red hot Mavs team (swept the Lakers, beat OKC) and we were out-played and out-coached. That being said, if LeBron plays up to his averages we would have won it all.

  14. jamoomba - Mar 13, 2012 at 4:42 AM

    Doc is 100% right. Big difference is that the Celtics “Big 3” were long time vets that had played on losing teams for a long time. It was the “hunger factor” that really came into play. They were nearing the tail ends of their careers with no team success to show for it, so it was much easier for them to drop egos and soley focus on the only thing that mattered. And yes, Rondo and Perkins were a big factor. That Celtics team was far more well-rounded and complimentary then both the Heat or the Clips are now.

  15. blueintown - Mar 13, 2012 at 7:24 AM

    Tom Thibodeau.

  16. 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 13, 2012 at 8:16 AM

    PJ Brown hit a series saving buzzer beater against Cleveland. Plain and simple.

  17. 1972wasalongtimeago - Mar 13, 2012 at 8:21 AM

    The Heat were very flawed last year. Most analysts predicted that their “Big 3” was doomed from the start. With no bench, no PG, no Center, and a young coach; it’s incredible they went as far as they did.

  18. dairamx2 - Mar 13, 2012 at 8:37 AM

    Do you guys proof read anymore?

  19. 700levelvet - Mar 13, 2012 at 9:05 AM

    Hell…….Doc Rivers is just being the class act he is……The big 3 in MIami, have a combined 27 years experience in the NBA,3 out of the top 5 picks in the 2003 draft… so the young thing doesn’t really hold any water. The big 3 in Miami made complete jackasses of themselves with their pep rally etc, and 6 7 8 titles BS…So maybe they grew up when they realized the rest of the league simply wouldn’t hand them the throne………time will tell…..But the two reasons Boston won immediately was…….Heart and Coaching……Spoelstra just roles the ball out there, and is simply an overpaid college intern,and that Celtics team just had more heart……And for the record……I hate the Celtics…..

  20. tellemjaii - Mar 13, 2012 at 5:26 PM

    First off lakers didnt have bynum for the finals..perkins missed game 7 off the rematch so actually bynum was the difference as the laker killed boston on the boards in most of the series

  21. tellemjaii - Mar 13, 2012 at 5:39 PM

    doc is very much right boston was fierce back then they were dialed in they all had there own teams at one point, didnt get it done and teamed up to become the big 3 now miami is a good team i just think lebron and wade were scared to play against each other and this year i keep hearing hes having the best year of his career ever….i bet he is imagined if every team played with 2 to 3 top players in their prime 27 28 years old thats nothing…be like jordan and kobe tossing each other alley oops with allen iverson running point and reggie miller shooting 3’s lol come on ppl

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