The common thread in the careers of The Big Three has been their consistently high quality of play. For each the standard deviation from their season averages (points, assist, rebounds, whatever) was minimal. It wasn’t that they didn’t have exceptional games, or the occasional stinker; it was that night in, night out, they performed more evenly (and better) than almost all of their brethren in the professional ranks. That constancy seems to have run aground against the reefs of time.
The corollary to the old adage (or is that the adage of the old?) “I’m as good once as I ever was” often emerges from aging stars—“I can still do it, just not every night!” Our big three appear to be entering that twilight where their more mortal evenings come with greater frequency. Consider their shooting numbers from each of the first three games of the finals, and the overall total and percentage: Pierce 6/13 2/11 5/12 13/36 36.1% Garnett 7/16 2/5 11/16 20/37 54.1% Allen 3/8 11/20 0/13 14/41 34.1% These aren’t horrific numbers, well except for that oh-for-Tuesday from Ray Allen last night. Certainly the cumulative numbers for the All-Star swingmen would leave them well out of the lists of the all-time greats. Allen has had exactly one blistering half out of the six played thus far. Pierce has none but he hasn’t had a game of all blanks either. Garnet, even without his game 3 jewel, put together 43% shooting in the two games for which he has been rightly taken to task (by the fans, the pundits, and most damningly, by Gasol) for unimpressive defense, rebounding, and impact.
No, the Big Three have been anything but that—perhaps the Struggling Three, the Hot-and-Cold Three, or just the Formerly-Big Three. It seems obvious to me that if the All-Star Trio are all on their games, the Lakers are in a world of trouble. Just as obvious is that if the stars continue to turn in journeymen performances, the likelihood of Banner 18 is a dim possibility for 2010.
Most everyone knew that the expiration date on this aggregation of over-thirty stars was rapidly approaching. Most conceded that it was critical that Ainge add complementary pieces to permit his aging leaders to taper their contributions into part-time heroics. Neither Elvis nor the replacements for the Big-Three are in the building. Unless the Tremendous Trio pull some solid performances out of their time capsule, this series (and the window) will quietly and sadly slip away. Regardless, Danny Ainge has some soul searching to do in . . . oh right, his plots and plans better be well under way because the off-season is almost upon us. Let’s hope this tumultuous summer can be realized in the afterglow of an improbable comeback and the evil Purple-and-Gold can be thwarted once again. [Discuss on CG Forums!]