After three games and three-quarters of methodically recovering from losses – and coming tantalizingly close to making history – the Celts ran out of steam in Game 7 against the Heat.
Miami took a 103-84 victory on Monday at the TD Garden to win the series four games to three and advance to the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals.
Jayson Tatum sprained his ankle in Game 1 of the game, Jaylen Brown had eight turnovers, the Celtics shot 21.4 percent from 3, and Boston scored just 18 points in a terrible fourth quarter. Jimmy Butler led with 28 and Celtics hitman Caleb Martin added 26.
The Celtics were slow and moody for most of the night. They showed signs of life in flashes, but the Heat withstood every boost and avenged last year’s loss in the same moment.
NBA teams are now 0-151 after losing 0-3 in the series – not 1-150.
It wasn’t early enough either, but they did enough to get around.
Tatum injured his ankle in the 26th second of the game and appeared to be in pain for the rest of the game. Brown became Option 1A and kept the Celtics afloat, however Martin continued to cook and the Heat took a 22-15 lead by one.
The Celtics shot just 6-of-23 (26.1 percent) from the field and 0-of-10 from 3-point range and had almost as many turnovers (four) as field goals in the quarter. They came out with those early-game jitters that often come with a huge game like this. It was as rough as it sounds.
Miami extended their lead to 38-21 with 7:32 by the end of the half. Boston has been behind by 17 or more 11 times this season and lost all 11. Once again, the odds of winning against the Celtics were much better, but (for whatever reason) that’s where they feel most comfortable.
As they have consistently done throughout the season and all series, they responded. Robert Williams completed an alley-oop, Tatum scored a pass goal, and Derrick White buried a 3. The Celtics briefly reduced it to eight and were trailing 52–41 after the first half.
It was the classic “played terrible but only lost by 11” halfway through, but it was true. They just dropped to 11.
White’s miniature 8-0 – including an i-one with a celebration from the ground – cut the deficit to 59-51 in the third quarter. Williams found Tatum for 3 before White scored again in the middle. The Garden crowd was ready to explode – restless and enthusiastic at the same time, ready to run.
But Martin kept the Heat ahead with a string of impressive shots. The Heat took a 76-66 lead in the fourth quarter.
The Celtics were right around the corner and had to find a way to get over the hump, but Martin and co. just wouldn’t let it happen. Miami saved the best for last and pulled out to prevent the Celtics from returning to the NBA Finals.
Boston eventually dug a hole too deep. Game 7 was a microcosm of the series as the Celtics hesitated early, responded and then fought back very late.
There will be no parade. We have a long and crucial off-season ahead of us.