- Chris Forsberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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As the 2010 calendar year draws to a close, we take a look at the Boston Celtics' 10 most memorable moments over the past 365 days:
10. Pierce joins 20,000 club (Nov. 3) -- Three of his teammates were already at the milestone, but Celtics captain Paul Pierce joined exclusive company when he became the 36th player in NBA history to reach the 20,000-point plateau during Boston's 105-102 overtime triumph over the Milwaukee Bucks. He became only the third Celtic to reach the plateau in one uniform, joining Larry Bird and John Havlicek. Pierce, ever mindful of the approaching moment, raised both arms as the crowd roared in recognition following a milestone free throw with 13.3 seconds remaining in the extra session.
"Players know,'' said Pierce, who ended up with 28 points in the win. "Whether they admit it or not is another thing. But they know."
9. Thibs named coach of Bulls (June 6) -- With the Celtics preparing for Game 2 of the NBA Finals, word trickled out that top assistant Tom Thibodeau had landed his first head-coaching job with the Chicago Bulls. Thibodeau, regarded as the defensive architect of Boston's 2008 title team, spent 18 years as an NBA assistant, including three years with the Celtics.
"Tom's a workaholic," said Pierce. "I'm always catching him in there working, watching film in his office. He's probably the most prepared coach I've ever seen."
8. Strategic rest before 2010 playoffs (Dec. 27, 2009-April 14, 2010) -- The Celtics emerged from a Christmas Day triumph over the rival Orlando Magic with a sparkling 23-5 record and renewed buzz about being contenders for an NBA title again. But the wheels were already coming off. Pierce didn't make the trip to Orlando because of a right knee infection that was just the first of numerous maladies he'd endure. Three days after Christmas, Kevin Garnett got kicked in his surgically repaired right knee and was hobbled for months. The Celtics played .500 ball over the final 54 games of the season, stumbling to the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference before making a postseason charge.
"The only reason we went on a slide -- and no one wanted to hear that last year during the whole stretch -- was that we had the whole team hurt," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers. "It's not like we started playing bad. We started playing injured and we never really got healthy, completely. Then we made the conscious choice to shut bodies down."
7. Rondo gets assist-happy to start 2010-11 season (Oct. 26-29) -- Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo dished out a total of 50 assists in the first three games of the 2010-11 season, tying (and later surpassing) John Stockton's season-opening assists record. Rondo's start was highlighted by a 24-assist effort as part of a triple-double he registered in a 105-101 triumph over the New York Knicks on Oct. 29. The 24 assists were the second-most in a game in Celtics history (and put a charge into Bob Cousy's team record of 28).
"It's all about the teammates," said Rondo. "They've got to make shots. If they don't make shots, then we don't have team assists."
For his efforts, Rondo earned the season's first Eastern Conference Player of the Week award.
6. Celtics sign Shaq (Aug. 4) -- In an offseason that featured 11 free-agent signings, the Celtics first reassembled their core, then went for a small-cost, big-splash addition by signing 38-year-old Shaquille O'Neal at the veteran's minimum. O'Neal arrived in Boston vowing to help bring the Celtics their 18th world title (and his fifth) and has proved to be more valuable than the team could have imagined (averaging 10.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in a starting role).
"Obviously, the franchise has a rich history of winning," O'Neal said at a glitzy introductory news conference Aug. 10. "For me, it wasn't really a tough decision to make. I just wanted to be with a great team and I wanted to continue to win."
5. Shrek & Donkey star in Finals (June 10) -- With the Celtics facing what amounted to a must-win situation in Game 4 of the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, it was the duo of Glen Davis and Nate Robinson that led a spirited bench effort in a 96-89 triumph at TD Garden that knotted the series 2-2. Davis and Robinson combined for 30 points, and the signature moment came when Robinson leaped on a drool-spewing Davis after a key fourth-quarter hoop.
"You were on my back?" Davis asked Robinson as they sat next to each other at their joint postgame news conference.
"You didn't even notice," replied Robinson. "We're like Shrek and Donkey. You can't separate us."
4. Rondo's triple-double sinks Cavs (May 9) -- Staring at a 2-1 series deficit entering Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Rondo put the Celtics on his back, producing an eye-popping triple-double in which he registered 29 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assists and was serenaded with "MVP!" chants near the end of Boston's 97-87 triumph over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"I think it starts with Rondo," said Cavaliers star LeBron James. "He's kind of the engine that really gets them going. He does everything for them. His performance was unbelievable. Rondo was definitely the difference-maker."
The win kick-started six consecutive playoff triumphs for Boston, which dispatched James and the Cavs, then won the first three games of the Eastern Conference finals against the Magic.
3. Perkins tears ACL in Game 6 of NBA Finals (June 15) -- The Celtics returned to Los Angeles on the cusp of securing Banner 18, but things went sour quickly. Kendrick Perkins crumpled to the court late in the first quarter after tearing the ACL in his right knee while fighting Andrew Bynum for a rebound. The Lakers not only emerged with an 89-67 triumph that renewed their confidence, but they dominated Boston on the glass, setting the tone for what was to unfold in Game 7. The Celtics simply didn't have the appropriate depth (Brian Scalabrine and Shelden Williams) to overcome Perkins' departure. Perkins' injury didn't just cost them a banner, it also altered the Celtics' offseason plans, forcing them to go after bigs early (though the addition of the O'Neals -- Jermaine and Shaq -- could go a long way toward helping the team atone this summer).
2. Rivers returns to Boston bench (June 30) -- All indications were that Rivers was ready to hang up his whistle and retreat to Orlando for more quality time with his family after Boston's soul-crushing Finals loss. Then his family told him to do what he does best and return to the Boston bench for another shot at the world title that evaded him just two weeks earlier. With Rivers returning on a one-year deal, the rest of the dominoes quickly fell with the Celtics re-signing Pierce and Ray Allen, keeping their Big Three intact, then adding reinforcements around them for another championship charge. But it all hinged on Rivers, with no guarantee that Pierce, Allen and the others would have flocked back to Boston without their leader.
1. Celtics lose Game 7 of the NBA Finals (June 17) -- Despite a 13-point, second-half lead, the Celtics ran out of gas before the finish line of the 2009-10 season, falling to the Lakers 83-79 in Game 7 at the Staples Center.
"There's a lot of crying in our locker room, a lot of people who care," said Rivers. "I don't think there was a dry eye. A lot of hugs, a lot of people feeling awful. That's a good thing. That means everybody cared. I just can't stress enough how crazy-close this team was, and that would be the word: crazy-close. They're the type of group that they could scream at each other, but no one [would] pick on any of them. That's a special group."
Chris Forsberg is the Celtics reporter for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.