Bruins

Celtics' Big Three leaves lasting impact on NBA

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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.

Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"

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Pastrnak on B's loss: "We kind of stopped playing"

BOSTON – At the end of the day, it was simply a game where the Bruins allowed themselves to get outworked in the third period and overtime. 

The B’s held a three-goal lead in the second period and still enjoyed a two-goal lead in the third period, but eventually dropped a frustrating, futile 5-4 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on Saturday night. It was clear to most speaking after the game that the Bruins eased up on the gas pedal once they’d scored their fourth goal of the game in the second period, and simply watched as the Sabres stomped all over them in the game’s second half. 

“I think we might have been a little bit too scared to play [in the third period], you know? We tried to just flip the pucks away, and didn’t make any plays trying to get it in the zone. Instead we should have just kept going like we did in the first two periods,” said David Pastrnak, who scored a pair of goals early in the loss to allow the Bruins to build up the three-goal lead. “Obviously we’re disappointed. We got one point. I think we didn’t play our game in the third period. We kind of stopped playing and they were all over us, and you know, it’s on us. We were the ones that gave them their point, but the first two periods were good. It’s just another learning session.”

To Pastrnak’s point, the Bruins were outshot by a 15-6 margin in the final 20 minutes of regulation and 21-6 overall in the third period and overtime prior to Ryan O’Reilly’s game-winner during 3-on-3 play. It was at this point the Bruins certainly missed stalwart stay-at-home defensemen Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller in the D-zone, and fell short of qualified penalty killers while trying to burn off a Brandon Carlo interference call at the end of the third period. 

All of that caught up to them once the Bruins loosened their grip on the Sabres, but certainly the feeling is that the loss should’ve been avoidable even if some of the circumstances made it difficult for the Black and Gold. It also should have been avoidable against a Sabres hockey club that was dreadful last season, and is again one of the doormats in the Atlantic Division in the early going thus far. 

“Those are the games you can’t lose. We obviously didn’t do the job there in the third and close it out, but we’re going to have to regroup and work on our game and be better for the next one,” said Brad Marchand. “We didn’t play the game we needed to play. We relaxed a bit and we started losing a few battles in the wrong areas, and you know, they just played better than we did.”

It’s mystifying that any team would need a crash-and-born loss like Saturday night in order to learn any lessons moving forward, and it certainly might have been a different story for the Bruins if they weren’t missing a few big defensive pieces. But that’s not how it went down for the Black and Gold as they sagged under rising pressure from the Sabres, and simply stopped working when the chips were on the table late in Saturday night’s game. 

Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

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Astros beat Yankees in Game 7 to advance to World Series, 4-0

HOUSTON - Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a three-hitter, Jose Altuve and Evan Gattis homered and the Houston Astros reached the World Series, blanking the New York Yankees 4-0 Saturday night in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series.

Just four years removed from their third straight 100-loss season in 2013, the Astros shut down the Yankees for two straight games after dropping three in a row in the Bronx.

Next up for the Astros: Game 1 of the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. Houston aces Dallas Keuchel and ALCS MVP Justin Verlander will have plenty of rest, too, before the matchup begins at Dodger Stadium.

Houston has never won even a single World Series game. The only previous time the Astros made it this far, they were a National League team when they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Now, manager A.J. Hinch's club has a chance to win that elusive first title, while trying to boost a region still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Houston improved to 6-0 at Minute Maid Park in these playoffs and became the fifth team in major league history to win a seven-game postseason series by winning all four of its home games.

Morton bounced back from a loss in Game 3 to allow two hits over five scoreless innings. Starter-turned-postseason reliever McCullers limited the Yankees to just one hit while fanning six over the next four.

Combined, they throttled the Yankees one last time in Houston. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez and their New York teammates totaled just three runs in the four road games.

CC Sabathia entered the game 10-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 13 starts this season after a Yankees loss. But he struggled with command and was gone with one out in the fourth inning.

Houston was up 2-0 in fifth when former Yankees star Brian McCann came through for the second straight game by hitting a two-run double after snapping an 0-for-20 skid with an ground-rule RBI double to give Houston its first run on Friday night.

The Yankees, trying to reach the World Series for the first time since 2009, lost an elimination game for the first time this season after winning their first four in these playoffs. New York struggled on the road this postseason, with this loss dropping the team to 1-6.