After The Big Loss, What Lies Ahead For The Celtics?

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The Miami Heat overcame the Boston Celtics Wednesday night, 97-87. It is over for Boston — Miami now advances to the Eastern Conference finals. They won Game 5 of the playoff series with a 10-point margin, much of that scored in the final minutes.

Only A Game's Doug Tribou joined Morning Edition Thursday to talk about the loss and what lies ahead for the Celtics.

Bob Oakes: Boston was looking good for most of the game. In fact, they held the lead for most of the first three quarters. What happened in this game, and in the whole series against Miami?

Doug Tribou: At the end, the Heat did what they did in all of their wins: they were able to go into a gear that the Celtics just don't have.

The Heat have younger legs, they have a deeper bench, and the Celtics just looked tired and a little old. LeBron James answered a criticism that's been dogging him for his career. He scored the last 10 points of the game, and that's how much they won by.

Celtics struggled in this series. They came in for a lot of criticism over the Kendrick Perkins trade earlier in the year. How big of a factor was that in this latest loss?

Kendrick Perkins would have gotten them over the top in this series. Certainly Nenad Krstic and Jeff Green were not big factors. But Perkins wouldn't have contributed a lot of offense, and wouldn't have contributed the speed that they might have needed to keep up with the Heat. It will get a lot of talk, but I don't think it would have been the difference to get past Miami this time around.

How about the Celtics' so-called "Big Three?" How long do you think the Celtics can afford to stick with guys who, in their 30s, are considered to be getting older?

Right now it seems like all of the core guys are all going to return. Ray Allen turns 36 this summer, Kevin Garnett turns 35 next week and Paul Pierce is going to be 34 this fall, but they will all be back. The question is, who can they add to this mix?

There's a chance Shaquille O'Neal would retire — he's 39. Jermaine O'Neal is 32, and the youngest player that's really a star player is Rajon Rondo. He's signed to the team long-term, but they definitely need to add some elements to the team to keep things going.

Rajon Rondo has been lauded in some ways for playing through pain after that horrific injury the other night. What's his future with the Celtics?

He has a chance to be the face of the franchise — he's signed through 2015. If the Big Three gradually start to retire, he could be the future of the team, but he definitely needs to continue to grow as a player. He's an incredible assist maker, he seems like he has the ball on a string half the time, and he gets all kinds of rebounds for a guy his size. But his shooting is really limited, and that limits him as a player.

If he can develop more of a scoring threat, he could be one of the top players in the league.

Celtics coach Doc Rivers used the word "probably" Wednesday night when he was asked about whether he'll be back next season. What do you think he meant by that?

From his comments, it seems like Doc wants to come back, that he thinks they have a shot to win with this group. He loves working with the Big Three — they won a title together.

He knows the Boston media, he knows if he says it and doesn't do it he'll take extra flak. I think he was feeling pretty confident that he'll return.

It's been touch and go the past few years because he wants to spend more time with his family — watch his sons' college and high school careers — but I think he's going to be back.

Bottom line, do you think the Celtics front office is going to have to blow up this team if it hopes to return to the playoffs next year?

I think we'll see a team that looks fairly similar to this year's team next year, and they'll take one more shot at it, but that may be it. The window is closing — it's a lot to ask of older guys to run full steam all season and beat out other teams like the Miami Heat and the Chicago Bulls.

This program aired on May 12, 2011.

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Bob Oakes Senior Correspondent
Bob Oakes was a senior correspondent in the WBUR newsroom, a role he took on in 2021 after nearly three decades hosting WBUR's Morning Edition.



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