The next time Lakers guard Kobe Bryant drives past Ray Allen, he might not… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
It ended in frustration, without a hint of sentimentality.
Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen walked off the Staples Center court for what could be the last time as a group Sunday, their heavy-heartedness confined to the way the final few minutes unfolded for the Boston Celtics.
They lost a five-point lead in the final 2 minutes 16 seconds and were pestered into a pair of desperation shots in the final moments of a 97-94 loss to the hated Lakers.
"Sometimes that's the way it goes," Pierce said.
It could have been a last stand of sorts for the Celtics' Big Three on the court where they have waged many epic battles with their archnemesis, including a pair of NBA Finals.
Garnett and Allen are in the final seasons of their contracts, though they could be gone before that with Thursday's trade deadline approaching. And a Lakers-Celtics Finals in 2012 seems as likely as Northwestern ever making the NCAA tournament.
"It really didn't cross my mind," Pierce said when asked about the possibility of taking the floor here alongside Garnett and Allen for the last time. "I understood that coming into the season, so I didn't think about it [being] the last time we were playing in the Staples Center or anything. I'm just trying to help this ballclub down the stretch run and for the playoffs."
Allen shrugged off the same question with a wan smile, saying, "We don't worry about that."
Garnett left the locker room without speaking to reporters.
The Celtics' trio combined for 44 points, with Allen scoring 17 and Garnett collecting 14 on seven-for-11 shooting to go with 11 rebounds, five assists and three steals. Pierce added 13 points, nine assists and three steals.
All three players were involved in the frantic finish.
With the clock sinking under eight seconds, the Celtics worked the ball to Allen. But the sharpshooter immediately found the outstretched arm of 7-footer Pau Gasol in his face, so he swung the ball to Pierce well beyond the three-point line.
Pierce's shot was blocked by Kobe Bryant, with Garnett tipping the ball to teammate Rajon Rondo for a last-second three-pointer that only nicked the front of the rim.
It was the end of the game, and quite possibly, an era.