It seems odd to even imagine such a scenario, but Celtics fans may well be bracing themselves for a major shakeup. A loss to the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the two teams Eastern Conference semifinal series could be the precursor for the end of the Big Three era.
Think about it. It's not so far-fetched. Ray Allen and coach Doc Rivers are on one-year deals. Kevin Garnett's contract expires after the 2011-2012 season. Paul Pierce is the only member of the troika signed up beyond next season. And with the NBA's current uncertainty pertaining to its labor situation and a lockout looming, it may be a long time, if ever, before we see this Big Three and their coach together again.
But that's a worst case scenario. The best case scenario is that the C's, back in Boston after two losses in Miami and well-rested following a three-day break, take care of business in Game 3 at TD Garden on Saturday night at 8 p.m. EDT, on ABC and get back in the series. The Celtics, as currently comprised, have never trailed a best-of-7 series 2-0, but if you ask Pierce, he doesn't mind.
"We still feel like it's going to be a seven-game series," Pierce said. "I like our chances, especially with our backs against the wall."
The C's backs aren't quite against the wall yet, but they will be with a loss on Saturday night. The odds are in their favor to avoid such a fate, however, with the team's current backbone (Garnett, Pierce, Allen, Rivers and Rajon Rondo) 29-7 at TD Garden in the playoffs. Furthermore, thanks to the three-day respite, all of the C's nagging injuries, including the ones that have held Shaquille O'Neal to just over five minutes of game action since Feb. 1, seem to have subsided and everyone, even Shaq (we think), is expected to play on Saturday night.
Regardless of whether or not Shaq makes his return, the Celtics will have to clamp down on defense if they want to get in the win column of this series. Miami has averaged over 100 points in its two wins thus far and the Celtics have looked slow defensively, both in one-on-one situations and and when rotating to pick up open jump shooters. A stronger defensive effort as well as more consistency from Garnett and Rondo on the offensive end are crucial to the C's getting back in the series.
"We've gotta get the next game," Garnett told ESPN Boston. "It's all-in. This is it. I've got two pocket kings and I'm all in."