THE JUBILANT—dare we say orgiastic?—reaction of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to Boston's first championship in 22 years was most assuredly the picture postcard of the 2007--08 NBA season. Close your eyes, and you can still see the Big Three, whooping, hollering and crying their eyes out long after the Celtics had won the title with a 131--92 Game 6 rout of the Lakers in Boston.
But that ecstasy might have been agony had the Celtics not rallied in Game 4 from 24 points down—a record in the 61-year history of the Finals (and in Los Angeles, no less)—to go up 3--1 and cement home court advantage. What remains most indelible about that epic comeback are the contributions of the bench players, the minor, sometimes forgotten characters who, on any great team, make a major, often decisive difference. In Celtics' lore they'll be forever known as the Fleetingly Fab Four:
James Posey Tough and confident, the 6'8" forward had been a key performer for the Miami Heat in its 2006 championship run.
Eddie House A shoot-first, ask-questions-later point guard, he had been considered a liability as a ball handler and quarterback.
P.J. Brown The ultimate tough-minded team player signed with the Celts as a free agent late in February to provide interior muscle.
Leon Powe A relatively unknown (and therefore underscouted) forward with an unconventional post-up game.
Posey finished with 18 points, including an important leaning-to-the-left three-pointer that gave the Celtics a 92--87 lead with 1:13 left. House scored 11 points—two of them on an 18-foot jumper that gave the Celtics their first lead of the game with 4:07 remaining—and more important, handled the ball so flawlessly that the C's didn't miss starter Rajon Rondo, who had a sprained ankle. The lone baskets scored by Brown and Powe were nevertheless crucial, the former's a dunk that closed the third quarter with an exclamation point that brought the Celtics to within 73--71, the latter's a turnaround in the lane early in the fourth that tied the game at 73. Plus, their toughness inside helped compensate for the absence of another starter, Kendrick Perkins, out with an injured shoulder.
After the game House, never shy with a quip, looked pleased but deadly serious. He's one of those guys—and there are a lot of them—who has to prove himself year after year, worried that a singular talent (in his case shooting) won't be enough to earn him an NBA roster spot. "You all know we wouldn't have won this game without the Big Three," said House. "They've carried us all year. But it's nice when the guys who get forgotten do something to get remembered."