I’m struggling to find the right words right now. I’m inconsolable. Devastated. Crushed. That was the worst Celtics loss I’ve ever experienced. Beyond heart-breaking. To end a season on a losing note is tough enough. But to do it against the Lakers? In Game 7? After leading by 13 fucking points in the second half? With the future such a cloudy mess? Goddamn, if I only had a gun…

As that lead dwindled away, a feeling of despair washed over me. It was like the game was going in slow motion. I could see the Celtics fading, the Lakers surging, and I only hoped the game clock would run out before the Lakers grabbed the lead. It didn’t. When Derek Fisher hit a three in Rondo’s eye to tie the game in the fourth I wanted to die right then and there. I knew it was over. I didn’t want to believe it, but that was when I knew. I spent the rest of the game hoping for a win I could tell wasn’t coming.

Why couldn’t the Celtics grab a damn rebound? Why couldn’t Ray Allen hit a damn shot? Why did Ron Artest pick the worst possible time to start drilling shots? Why did Sasha Vujacic have brass balls at the free throw line? Why didn’t the Celtics capitalize on one of the worst performances of Kobe’s career? Why didn’t any Celtic step up in the fourth quarter, as the game was slipping away? Why, why, why, why, why, why?

The Celtics spent 23 playoff games trying to prove the regular season doesn’t matter, but Game 7 was a painful reminder that it certainly does. Every shortcoming the Celtics showed all season came back at exactly the wrong time. Bad rebounding? Yup. Poor fourth-quarter execution? Most certainly. Failure to hold second-half leads? Indeed. The reasons the Celtics lost yesterday are the same goddamn reasons they were so inconsistent all year long.

If they’d played better during the regular season, maybe the Celtics could have had homecourt advantage. And if they’d homecourt advantage tonight, they wouldn’t have lost that game. There’s no way. Up 13 in the third and threatening to run away with the championship? If the game had been in Boston, the Lakers would have folded in a heartbeat — the game would have turned into a bloodbath. Instead, in LA, the Lakers banded together and fought back as the home crowd cheered them on.

If this was the last game the Big Three ever played together, how will history remember them? As the gritty champions who played harder than any other team I’ve ever seen? The hard-luck losers who twice coughed up 3-2 series leads? Somewhere in between? I’m really not sure where this team fits in the grand scheme of basketball history.

But I know exactly how I’ll remember the Big Three. As ego-less superstars who gelled together to earn the ring they could never win alone. Ferocious competitors who never backed down from a challenge. Who restored tradition and honor to the Boston Celtics organization. Who made me proud to be a Celtics fan again, proud to wear the color Green. Who never, ever stopped fighting.

Celtic Pride, man. The Big Three have it, in spades. The thing I’ll always keep in mind about the Big Three is that they care. They care about moving the ball. They care about being unselfish. They care about defense. They care about each other. Most of all, they care about winning. And even though they don’t have two titles to show for it, even though last night could have been the devastating end of the Big Three era, they pieced together one hell of a run. These Celtics were a team that Bill Russell and Larry Bird, and all the other Celtic greats, could be proud of. Even in defeat, they were champions.

I’m legitimately tearing up while writing this. What hurts so bad isn’t only that the Celtics lost a heartbreaking Game 7 in the NBA Finals — it’s that I don’t know if they’ll be back in the Finals anytime soon. Next year they’ll be a year older, a year slower. We don’t know if Doc Rivers is coming back and we don’t know if Ray Allen will re-sign. We don’t know if Paul Pierce will opt out or Rasheed Wallace will retire. Even if everyone does come back, there’s no guarantee the Celtics will still be contenders. The window is closing fast, and it could be completely closed by next spring. The time to win another championship was now. And it didn’t fucking happen.

While I was sitting with tears in my eyes and my head in my hands, pondering the excruciating loss, I briefly wondered whether it would have been better if the Celtics had just lost to the Cavs in the second round. It wouldn’t have been so painful, ya know?

But it wouldn’t have been so rewarding, either. No matter how badly it stings right now, the Celtics just pieced together one of the most improbable, incredible postseason runs in NBA history. They have nothing to hang their heads about. They lost, yeah, but even the loss was a validation of everything the Celtics stand for. Teamwork. Grit. Lock-down defense. Overcoming setbacks. The C’s won’t be wearing two rings and they won’t come home to a parade, but this playoff stretch again displayed everything I ever loved about this team.

Now it’s over. There’s nothing left but the crying. And as well as the Celtics played, as much joy as the last two months brought me, I can’t delete the fact that the Celtics lost. Tony Allen summed it up perfectly after the game:

“Definitely a tough one to swallow but what I am going to say is, I love this group of guys.”

So do I. That’s why it hurts so bad. That’s why there are still tears in my eyes.

(Before I go, I just want to thank you guys for reading my stuff. And to El Pres for the opportunity. It’s been real. I only wish basketball season never ended. Send any feedback you’ve got to jayking@celticstown.com. Peace.)