Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 5/4/13
BOSTON — As the Celtics players and coaches staggered off the court, their bid for a couple of historic comebacks having fallen short in a brutal Game 6, Kevin Garnett made a beeline for his coach of six years. Garnett, dripping with perspiration after another of his age-defying performances, exchanged some personal words with Doc Rivers. Afterward, while addressing the media, Rivers was in disbelief. “He told me he loved me, and I told him I loved him,” Rivers said. “Kevin always checks on me, which is funny. That’s what he wanted to know, was I OK. I was laughing with our coaches, that’s typical Kevin.” If the Celtics had beaten the Knicks and not lost, 88-80, to end their season, Rivers was unsure whether Garnett would have been able to give the Celtics as much as the 15 points, 10 rebounds and two steals he delivered in 41 minutes on Friday. But Rivers would have liked to try it. There was a tinge of reflection to Rivers’ postgame comments, as though he knew something about Garnett and Paul Pierce that nobody else did — or at least did not want to admit. Rivers, Pierce and Garnett huddled together after the game and agreed to speak later, when the emotions of Friday’s loss had lessened. The Celtics stormed back from a 26-point deficit in the fourth quarter to pull within four points late in the game, encapsulating their near-comeback from a 3-0 series deficit into six frantic minutes. The rally fell short, however, and suddenly the entire organization and its fanbase was struck by the realization that an era may be ending in Boston. “Right now, a lot of emotions, a lot of thoughts go through your head,” Pierce said. “About the season, about what you could’ve done better to keep this season going, about the future. There’s a lot of mixed emotions right now. It’s a tough loss. We’d be happy with a Game 7, but unfortunately we didn’t get it done.” Garnett, 36, has two years left on the three-year contract he signed last summer. He demonstrated in the final three games of the series that he is playing near the top of his game, and his roughly $12 million salary next season is reasonable given his production as a big man. The fate of Pierce, a career-long Celtic, may be more uncertain. The 35-year-old forward is due more than $15 million next season in the final year of his contract, but the team can exercise a $5 million buyout. That would free up valuable money to bring in some new players to help the Celtics — help that even Garnett and Rivers admitted the Celtics need. No matter how much money Pierce’s buyout would open up, however, a team without Pierce would be less attractive to Garnett. At this point in his career, Garnett no longer is playing for the money. He is playing for the love of the game and for his friend, Pierce. “One of the big reasons I came here was because of Paul,” Garnett said. “Obviously, you know you want to be in a situation where it’s better. I want to make sure I can always help the team, want to be in a position where I’m giving something. I demand a lot out of myself, physically and from a skill level. I’ll be honest, I’d be lying to you if I said Paul didn’t play into that.” Rivers has said that he would prefer to coach Garnett, Pierce and even Ray Allen forever, and he did his best to sound hopeful on Friday. At the same time, he seemed resigned to the possibility that one or both remaining members of the so-called “Big Three” could be gone when the Celtics open training camp in the fall. He has already had to face part of that reality without Allen, who signed with the Heat last offseason. In an emotional news conference, Rivers credited Garnett with providing the example for the Celtics’ competitiveness, which allowed them to fight back in both a series and a close-out game in which they were left for dead. “They wanted to play well. They didn’t, but they wanted to, and you could feel it,” Rivers said. As he has he has several times in recent years, Rivers also mused over Pierce’s increasingly unique career. “He’s one of the greatest Celtics to every play,” Rivers said. “He’s done so much for this franchise, Paul has. We live in a day and time when guys are changing teams like socks, and Paul has chosen to stay here throughout his career when clearly he had all rights to leave. And he chose to stay. I have so much respect for him for that.” At the end of a long season, the Celtics fought to keep it alive. After season-ending injuries to Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger and Leandro Barbosa, they regrouped with the likes of Terrence Williams, Jordan Crawford and Shavlik Randolph. They turned Brandon Bass into a defensive stopper. They found a spark in Jeff Green. They finally unearthed Jason Terry when it mattered. They eyed up a 26-point deficit with their season on the line, and put a scare into a Knicks squad that shrank away under pressure and backed into the second round. “We had a shot,” Pierce said. With Pierce and Garnett, the Celtics have always had a shot. The question now becomes whether this was their last one. Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame or send it here.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Dallas Cowboys' team employee bus involved in fatal crash

Aldon Smith posts video under a pseudonym of a blunt on Periscope

WATCH: Cam Newton get blocked by a girl playing volleyball

Russia avoids complete ban from Rio Olympics by the IOC

Report: Padres trying to move Andrew Cashner, Derek Norris


Baseball's top prospect called up to majors by Astros

Report: Braves 'aggressively' shopping Francoeur, Aybar

Report: Hue Jackson designing plays for Terrelle Pryor

Report: Darnell Dockett expected to announce retirement

Report: Yankees have not discussed releasing A-Rod

Report: D-Backs making Shelby Miller available via trade

Cristiano Ronaldo spars with Conor McGregor in gym

Adam Silver is the new standard-bearer for league commisioners

Iowa football player held at gunpoint by police while playing Pokemon Go

Eight most significant injuries going into NFL training camp

Man. U players banned from playing 'Pokemon Go?'

Ken Griffey Jr. put on backwards hat during HOF speech

Mike Piazza honors 9/11 victims during Hall of Fame speech

Jeremy Lin hints he is racially profiled by arena employees

Why did Rio mayor offer to put kangaroo in Olympic village?

Joe Maddon wastes no time cracking Chris Sale joke

Report: Lamar Odom walked out on family intervention

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

WATCH: NBA jersey sponsors that need to happen

Expansion draft playing heavy hand in the current NHL offseason

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker