Monday, November 29, 1999

Aging Celtics miss chance for glory and head for changes

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The Boston Celtics left the Staples Center in silence on Thursday after an 83-79 defeat to the Los Angeles Lakers ended their hopes of claiming an 18th NBA title.Instead, they were forced to witness the Lakers clinch their 16th title, moving one behind Boston in the intense rivalry between the league's two most successful franchises."It's tough. I can't reflect on it right now," Celtics coach Doc Rivers told reporters after Game Seven. "Probably in a week or so, I'll go hide somewhere for a while."We're not going to be the same team next year."The veteran Celtics had looked like they could steal the title when they raced to a nine-point lead after the first quarter and were ahead by 13 with a little more than eight minutes left in the third quarter.Boston, however, let things slip away as Los Angeles gained momentum and the Celtics' shots stopped falling."We had an opportunity to win but luck just didn't bounce in our corner," said guard Ray Allen. "It just didn't go our way down the stretch."Without starting centre Kendrick Perkins, who missed the game with a knee injury suffered in Game Six, Boston were pounded on the backboards and left to wonder what could have been.Despite capturing the title in 2008, the Celtics surprised by reaching the finals as their regular season was characterised by injuries and inconsistency and they entered the playoffs as the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference.However victories over the Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic earned Boston a rematch with the Lakers, who they defeated in the finals in 2008.The Celtics, however, are now likely to mull an uncertain future with changes to the team possible."I don't know if Rasheed (Wallace) will ever play again. He's thinking about retirement," Rivers said."Guys are going to not be there (next year). So that was tough for me."
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