Celtics' Big Three leaves lasting impact on NBA


Celtics' Big Three leaves lasting impact on NBA

BOSTON When Danny Ainge pulled off the blockbuster draft-night trade in 2007 for Ray Allen, and followed that up with one of the more lopsided NBA deals of the past decade in acquiring Kevin Garnett from Minnesota, Big Three 2.0 in Boston was alive and well.

Allen, Garnett and the captain Paul Pierce, were three stars that for years shined brightly in their own little basketball worlds, only to come together and establish themselves as a three-headed monster of the likes the league hadn't seen in years.

From the beginning, they would inevitably be compared to the original Big Three in Boston: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.

It made sense for a lot of reasons, one of which was that both won an NBA title in their first season together.

Thats when the two go their separate ways.

While the Bird-led Celtics played about a decade together before injuries became a major issue, the most recent Big Three incarnation began to get hit by the injury bug in their second year together, prompting many -- including head coach Doc Rivers -- to play the ''what if' game.

Kevin Garnett, the defensive anchor and emotional catalyst from the moment he arrived, suffered a knee injury that would sideline him for 25 regular season games and the entire postseason of the 2008-09 season, which ended with the Cs getting bounced in the second round by Orlando.

They would get back to the NBA Finals in 2010, only to lose in seven games to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Bostons season has ended at the hands of the latest Big Three power, Miami, each of the last two seasons.

"I would have loved to have seen this team in this whole stretch where Kevin was injury-free," Rivers said.

Still, there's no knocking the team's five-year run as being an impressive one.

Five Atlantic Division titles
A winning percentage of 69.3 (273-121)
Two trips to the NBA Finals (2008, 2010)
One NBA title (2008)

If you go by the sheer numbers, the Bird-led Big Three still had a better run when you consider the categories that matter most winning percentage (70.1), trips to the NBA Finals (five) and most important, NBA titles (three).

And while some might argue that the Big Three of the 1980s spent more years together and thus would have more success, consider this: If you went by the first five years of the Big Three era of the 1980s, it would be even more lopsided statistically.

In their first five seasons together, Bird, McHale and Parish won 74.6 percent of their regular season games, with three trips to the NBA Finals and a pair of NBA titles (1981, 1984).

As much as Allen takes pride in what he and his Big Three cohorts did in the past five seasons, he knows which trio had a better run.

"We have definitely fallen short," Allen said. "But we've gone out trying to play as hard as we can every night."

Whatever this current Big Three lacked in terms of wins and championships, they more than made up for it with the impact that they made on the entire NBA.

Since joining forces in 2007, it seemed to have sparked the notion that attempting to bring three superstars together instead of the customary one or two, could indeed bring you a championship.

It worked in Boston, why couldn't it work elsewhere?

That was clearly the mindset of the Miami Heat when they spent years planning for the 2010 free agency period where they were determined to build a roster around three of the game's elite players.

They're still in search of that elusive title with their Big Three of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

But they're only in their second season together, and each season has included a trip to the NBA Finals.

Last season, they lost in the Finals to the Dallas Mavericks.

Now they're facing an Oklahoma City team that, like the Heat, have three stars that are central to the team's success. The Thunder are led by NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant, All-Star Russell Westbrook and super-sub James Harden.

So to put the Bird-McHale-Parish trio on a higher pedestal than this most recent triumvirate of Celtics superstars, is understandable.

They won more games and had more titles.

But that shouldn't dismiss what this current group has done.

They may not have been as successful as their Big Three predecessors, but their impact both on the Celtics franchise and the league as a whole, is undeniable.

Need proof? Look no further than Game 1 of tonight's NBA Finals.

It doesn't matter which team you pull for. The Boston Celtics' Big Three imprint is there.

Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month


Acciari glad to be back with B's after missing a month

BOSTON -- Noel Acciari missed a month of game action with a lower body injury, so it would have been perfectly acceptable to show plenty of rust in his game upon returning to the Boston lineup.

But the former Providence College standout didn’t look rusty, a step behind or out of place in any way as he played the fourth line energy forward role to a perfect fit after missing the last 13 games. Acciari did get in one game with the Providence Bruins prior to suiting back up for the Black and Gold on Saturday, and perhaps that helped him manufacture a couple of shots on net to go along with three thumping hits against the Maple Leafs.

The 25-year-old Acciari didn’t factor into the scoring at all for the Bruins, but that’s just as well given that his focus should be on killing penalties, being hard to play against and taking the body whenever the chance presents itself. Claude Julien reformed the B’s energy line that had so much success earlier in the season with Acciari, Dominic Moore and Tim Schaller, and didn’t hesitate tossing them back into the mix together while looking for energy and a spark for an offensively stunted team.

“It’s good to be back with my linemates, and you know, I think we kind of picked up where we left off, but there’s definitely things we need to work on. That’ll come with a couple more practices and games together,” said Acciari, who finished theSaturday loss with three registered hits packed into 11:35 of ice time. “Kind of getting back to our familiarity and kind of get back to where we were before I got injured.

“It was a good start tonight, but we definitely just weren’t clicking like we used to, but that’ll come. I think that will come. Like I said, a couple practices and just kind of getting some games in [are good things]. I thought we were pretty good tonight, but, you know, should get more pucks to score [goals].”

Clearly there is room for improvement for everybody including Acciari, but it was encouraging to see the fearless competitor again flying around on the TD Garden ice playing high intensity hockey for a fourth line that could use every little bit of that. 

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

Backes: "Offensive frustration is warranted at this point"

BOSTON -- This may not come as a surprise, but the Boston Bruins are having some trouble putting the puck in the net.

Despite outshooting the Maple Leafs by an 11-2 margin in the first period and outshooting them by a 32-21 margin over the balance of the 60 minute game, the Bruins scratched for just a single goal in a frustrating, constipated 4-1 loss to Toronto at TD Garden. Clearly some of the offensive difficulty was caused by a solid Frederik Andersen, who improved to 6-0-0 in a career against Boston that’s beginning to take on Bruins Killer proportions.

But a great deal of the B’s struggles to finish scoring chances on Saturday night is a malady that’s dogged the Bruins all season, and marked the 20th time in 29 games this year that Boston has scored two goals or less. In most of these games the Bruins have dominated puck possession and outshot their opponents, but still have come away mostly empty handed in the goals scored department while dropping deep in the bottom third of NHL offenses this season.

“It seems like every game we’re out-chancing teams, but we don’t outscore teams. That’s where the biggest issue is right now. Our scoring is not there and if you don’t score goals you don’t win hockey games,” said Claude Julien. “Because of that we criticize everything else in our game, but our game isn’t that bad.

“If we were scoring goals people would love our game right now, but that’s the biggest part. There’s not much more I can say here except for the fact that if we don’t score goals it’s going to be hard to win hockey games.”

But the Bruins aren’t scoring goals consistently, their power play is below average while trending in the wrong direction and the team has been forced to watch steady offensive players like Patrice Bergeron suddenly slump in a concerning way. Clearly David Pastrnak is doing his part with 18 goals scored this season in 24 games, and others like Brad Marchand and Dominic Moore have also performed above, or beyond, their acceptable level of play.

But there are other players failing with the chance to make an offensive dent: Austin Czarnik has been on the roster for nearly two months, and has zero goals and two points in his last 15 games as the offense is again dried up on the third line. He missed wide on a shorthanded chance in the third period after a Moore centering pass set up him all alone in front, and was critiquing himself for fanning on a perfect dish to him in the slot.

Moments later the Leafs had an insurance score from James van Riemsdyk to make it a 3-1 game, and it was all over for the Black and Gold at that point.

Czarnik is an easy target because he’s young and inexperienced, but there is more than enough struggle and frustration to go around with a bunch of offensive players that can’t seem to get out of their own way. David Backes admitted it’s reached a point where the Bruins are frustrated when they can’t score enough to beat a team like Toronto, and that it falls squarely on the lead guys in the Black and Gold dressing room that are underperforming.

“I think offensive frustration is warranted at this point; we just haven’t done a good enough job scoring goals. We played a heck of a first period. We limited them to two shots and we had an opportunity to have a team that’s coming in here that’s a younger team, to really put them behind the eight ball,” said Backes. “Instead, they think they got a second lease on life and they were able to capitalize. All of the sudden, they were up 2-0 and we’re fighting an uphill battle again rather than -- we have that opportunity to play a heck of a first period and we don’t find a way – it’s easy to talk about, but it’s going out there and doing the job and putting it past or through the goalie, or however it needs to happen. “You’ve seen our goals; you want to do a study on it unless you’re Pasta [David Pastrnak] with the one-timer on the side, it’s been ugly, it’s been rebounds, it’s been greasy goals and that’s our equation and we need more of it, and we didn’t do it. They did a good job of being in front of their net and boxing out, eliminating those second chances. But, we’ve got good players in here that need to create more and find those second chances and win those battles, find those loose pucks, and throw them in the net.”

The Bruins have been talking seemingly all season about the need to get to the “dirty areas in the offensive zone”, and for players to jump all over the second and third chance opportunities currently going by the board unchallenged on goalie rebounds.

Now it’s about speaking with action for the B’s, and more specifically speaking volumes with goals and offensive finish instead of “chances” that aren’t doing much of anything if they’re not being snapped into the back of the net.