Everybody's favorite moment of the Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen era in Boston is undoubtedly June 17, 2008 when we watched them lead the Celtics to their first NBA championship in 22 years, proving that anything is possible. They absolutely destroyed the Lakers by 39 points in the series-deciding Game 6, and we got to watch Paul Pierce hoist that well-deserved NBA Finals MVP trophy in Boston as the Garden erupted in euphoric celebration.
Nothing else from that time period is going to overshadow the magic of the night that Green 17 came to fruition. With that said, when you think back and create a list about the greatest moments from the "Big Three 2.0," second in line might have to be what went down five days prior.
Although it feels like we experienced the rapture of Game 4 just yesterday, it has been seven years and I have a violently reduced number of active hair follicles to prove it. Nevertheless, that's what history week is for!
Let's take a look back at the game that brings the phrase "roller coaster of emotions" to life.
Heading into Game 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals, the Celtics held a 2-1 series lead and were booked to play two more consecutive games on the road out in Los Angeles against 2007-08 NBA MVP Kobe Bryant and his supporting cast in those ugly purple and gold uniforms. Of course, a victory meant a virtually insurmountable 3-1 series lead for the Celtics and a loss meant the series would be tied at 2-2 with Game 5 back at the Staples Center.
Kobe Bryant set the arena on fire in Game 3 with a vintage 36-point performance to lead his Lakers back into the series, and his track record told us to expect "The Black Mamba" to itch his trigger finger in an attempt to tie the series up. To everyone's surprise, he was not very aggressive to score in the first half, but that sure as heck didn't stop them from knocking the Celtics flat on their back with the first punch of the game.
Bryant poured in just two free throws throughout the entire first quarter, but the Lakers got everything they wanted and Lamar Odom knocked down his first six shots after struggling through the better part of the first three games of the series. L.A. was connecting on all cylinders to open the floodgates for a heart-stopping advantage early in the game.
At the 5:40 mark of the first quarter, a Vladimir Radmanovic baseline three-ball put the Lakers up 20-6. Near the end of the contest's initial frame, with Pau Gasol at the free throw line in the midst of extending the lead to 18, commentators Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson were already cracking sarcastic jokes regarding the outcome of the game as Van Gundy remarked "I'm going to go out on a limb... 2-2" with 1:12 remaining in the quarter. Jackson prefaced a chuckle with "You're a real dare devil."
Los Angeles held a 35-14 advantage at the end of the first quarter, and Kobe Bryant hadn't even connected on a single field goal. The enemy earned it with a relentless approach to attacking the paint, moving the ball high-low, dominating the 50-50 game and getting to the line for 15 free throw attempts in the first 12 minutes of the ballgame. It was one-sided on the scoreboard and on the eyes, both in terms of effort and execution.
The Celtics were facing their largest deficit of the game halfway through the second frame, down 24 points. To add insult to injury, you had Sasha Vujacic beating his chest and howling to the rafters in a position of power. This was just brutal to watch, as Celtic Nation felt its collective chest fill with an unprecedented level of rage in response to what we were witnessing. The men in green would fire back with a 12-0 run throughout a two and a half minute stretch late in the first half, but still found themselves trailing by 18 at intermission.
Coming out of the locker room with their backs against the wall, our beloved Boston Celtics were a different animal.
After six minutes of back-and-forth basketball had the Lakers up 20 in the middle of the third quarter, the flip was switched and the undeniable resilience of Doc Rivers' troops had completely shifted the momentum of the game. Boston's trademark defensive prowess finally woke up out of its slumber, smothering Phil Jackson's playbook and finally allowing themselves to get out in transition.
Paul Pierce's energy and spirit lead the charge on both ends of the floor, as the captain attacked on the move and competitively embraced the responsibility of taking on Kobe one-on-one. Bryant scored just five points in the quarter, bringing his scoring total to an uncharacteristic seven points through three frames.
Thanks to stifling team defense, Pierce's rejuvenated attack mentality and multiple timely sequences from key second unit performers P.J. Brown, Eddie House and James Posey, the Celtics rallied to put together a game-changing 20-3 run in the second half of the third quarter. Boston controlled the quarter with a 31-15 advantage and the Laker lead disintegrated from 24 points to a single possession heading into the fourth.
The Celtics were not about to lay down in the heat of combat. This blowout transformed into a war, and they made it up in their minds that they were not going to lose.
With 4:05 left on the clock, an Eddie House mid-range jumper gifted the Celtics their first lead of the game. Moments later, Ray Allen activated his inner Jesus Shuttlesworth and came up with a big time offensive rebound, leading to a reset, ball reversal and that beautifully unforgettable double-clutch reverse layup. After a jump-stop floater from Kevin Garnett, Boston's lead was extended to five as a Lakers timeout had fans all across New England pinching themselves thinking (or perhaps screaming) "this is real, this is real, this is real!"
Kobe went on to answer with a pair of free throws and a pretty drive to the lane to score his 10th point of the fourth quarter, but James "king of making the right play at the right time" Posey immediately fired back with his second baseline three of the frame (marking six of his 18 points off the bench). What a gamer. If you don't miss Pose, there's a pretty good chance you are suffering from a severe case of dementia.
With 20 seconds to go and the Celtics up 94-91, one of my all-time favorite sequences in life transpired. You already know what it is. Ray Allen, who played all 48 minutes, had Sasha Vujacic mano e mano at the top of the key in a grossly one-sided isolation set and a spread floor, as Jesus turned on his 32-year-old jets with a stutter step that lead him to drive right and glide down the paint to finish on the left side of the rim. The Celtics were up five with 16 seconds to go, the game was virtually in the bag and Vujacic had absolutely no idea what to do with himself during that timeout. Thank God for cameras; that will never get old.
Clawing back from a 24-point deficit on the road to win the game against all odds, the Celtics completed the largest comeback in NBA Finals history and took control of a commandingly convincing 3-1 series lead. It's safe to say you know the rest. The 26-point comeback against the Nets in Game 3 of the 2002 Eastern Conference Finals was remarkable in its own right, but this was so much sweeter. It meant more, and while Game 6 was the dagger that sliced the jugular, the night of Game 4 is when everybody knew it was over.
Chills rushed down my spine, and yours, as The Truth hopped down the tunnel barking "One mo'! That's how you fight!" If Game 4 doesn't epitomize the meaning of ubuntu, I don't know what does.
"Never stop believing, baby."