Celtics face uncertainty after Game 7 loss to Heat

By Tim Reynolds

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, June 9 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

Boston Celtics' Ray Allen (20) and Paul Pierce (34) look up at the scoreboard as the Celtics fall behind the Miami Heat during the second half of Game 7 of the NBA basketball playoffs Eastern Conference finals, Saturday, June 9, 2012, in Miami. Miami won 101-88.

Lynne Sladky, Associated Press

MIAMI — Doc Rivers had tears in his eyes. Rajon Rondo insisted more could have been done, even after he put up another triple-double. Ray Allen said he has years left in his legs.

The season is over for the Boston Celtics.

Only time will tell if this run of Celtics basketball is over as well.

LeBron James had 31 points and 12 rebounds, Chris Bosh hit a career-best three 3-pointers — the last sparking the run that put it away — and the Miami Heat won their second straight Eastern Conference title by beating the Celtics 101-88 in Game 7 on Saturday night.

So one "Big Three" — the one from Miami — is headed to an NBA finals matchup with Oklahoma City.

The other "Big Three" — the one from Boston, where it's technically been a "Big Four" — is headed into an offseason of uncertainty.

"It's tough. Everything's going so fast right now to think about it," Celtics forward Paul Pierce said. "I'm more disappointed about the loss. It's tough to think about it, especially when you didn't accomplish your goal to win the championship. There are a lot of emotions right now."

Miami opens the title series in Oklahoma City on Tuesday night. The Heat got there by outscoring Boston 28-15 in the fourth quarter, with the "Big Three" of Wade, Bosh and James scoring every Miami point.

"We decided to come together and play together for a reason," Wade said.

Wade scored 23 points, Bosh finished with 19 and Shane Battier added 12 for the Heat.

Rondo finished with 22 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds for Boston, which got 19 points from Pierce in what might be the last game of the "Big Four" era for the Celtics. Boston took out its starters with 28.3 seconds left. By then, workers already had a rope around the perimeter of the court, preparing for the East trophy presentation.

"Give them credit," Rondo said. "They spread the points out as a team tonight. Give them credit. They played great tonight as a team and we just came up short."

James and Rivers — who teared up often postgame — shared a long embrace when it was all over. Before coming to Miami for Game 7, Rivers had packed for Oklahoma City, a trip he won't make, set to now spend his time seeing if James can win that first title.

"I told him to go do it," Rivers said.

Boston battled injuries all season, all the way to the end. Allen said he'll need surgery soon to repair bone chips in his right ankle. Pierce has been playing through a sprained knee ligament.

It all hurt. Nothing hurt more than the final buzzer Saturday night.

"It's probably the worst feeling that we feel, in our lives, in our careers," Allen said. "There's nothing you can do about it. There's one team that wins that last game. We want to be that team every year. We've been through a lot. We've won a lot of games. At the end of every season, it always feels like it's it.

"This one hit me hard," Allen continued. "We wanted it so bad."

Down by seven at the half and eight early in the third quarter, Miami started clawing back. An 8-0 run tied it at 59-all, capped by Wade hitting a jumper, and then the fun really started. There were six lead changes and five more ties in the final 7 minutes of the third. Bosh scored with 29 seconds left for the last of those ties, and it was 73-all going into the fourth.

Six games decided nothing, and nothing was decided in Game 7 until the very last moments, neither team yielding much of anything. Battier's 3-pointer with 8:06 left in the third cut Boston's lead at the time to 59-57.

And back and forth they went.

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