As record books become thicker and more volumes are printed, CeltsA moving return from a 0-3 deficit will just be another flash like the 150 that happened before. After losing Game 7 107-88 on Memorial Day, they became another footnote in history and after they had the chance to rewrite it.
For three wins in a row, Boston played with their backs to the wall, a desperation they clearly needed to fuel their comeback. But on Monday night, with the Eastern Conference Finals tied 3-3, Miami looked more poised and relaxed for the moment.
“I thought we were tight. I thought we played tight,” said Malcolm Brogdon after leaving Game 6, but gave a chance in Game 7. “When you play like this, you waver on both sides of the ball. I thought Miami played backwards.
Survival instinct gone to just see another day. Several defensive mistakes, the Heat shooting an astounding 50% of their three-pointers, and the Celtics’ stagnant attacking performance were compounded by injuries to Jayson Tatum (game-1 sprained ankle), Malcolm Brogdon and the late Derrick White. Certainly not such a result they expected, at the moment of defeat it is easy to forget about the whole balance of the season.
“I’m not going to get caught up in questions about consistency and stuff like that,” said Al Horford after finishing Season 5 green. “We have a good group. We’ve had a lot going on this year and our boys should hold their heads high because we’ve had a lot of adversity. We did a lot of things in this dressing room and our group was very professional, they worked really hard and it’s disappointing that we didn’t get our result.
“We failed. We wanted to win the championship. That was our goal, but even so, I’m very proud of this group because there were never excuses. We had ups and downs, but we persevered.”
Horford and his balanced management will return next year after signing a two-year extension. Veterans Brogdon and Derrick White also have two seasons left on their contracts. They join a young core of twentysomethings that includes Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Robert Williams. Freshly minted as a second All-NBA player, Jaylen Brown is set to land a supermax deal this summer with a one-year extension to his rookie. Brown did not want to go into details about a possible re-signing, but Tatum had no doubts.
“It’s incredibly important,” Tatum said of the cornerstone of his franchise. “He’s one of the best players in the league. Plays with both ends of the ball. Still relatively young. He’s achieved a lot in his career so far, so I think that’s extremely important.
But after losing in Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals, some questions arise. Despite boasting the second best defense in the NBA AND bending it back vs 76ers and Heat, the band went through a bit of an identity crisis as they sometimes set the bar so high that the falls felt schizophrenic. It was weird coming out of his mouth, but the former defender of the year called the defense “team kryptonite” when their shots weren’t falling.
“It was problemBrogdon was blunt about the band’s D. “This was a team that prided itself on defense last year. I think defense was their showpiece. And this year the attack was our showcase. I don’t think you can win championships with better offense than defense.
And that’s how this team can ultimately be judged – based on their performance versus everyone’s expectations, including theirs. They didn’t fly Banner 18, and that’s a failure.
In turn, wins and losses are broad strokes of the season’s obituary, especially this year. Little will be said about the Celtics regular season and their 57 wins. Their explosive offensive will only be remembered for what many felt was an overreliance on three-pointers; that is, in the last ten quarters of the season, they hit just 21 of 91 from behind the arc.
Some of this criticism and speculation is certainly valid and food for thought as Brad Stevens ponders ways to improve the roster. However, it is mostly bath water, which will be another forgotten season (and not soon enough).
But for me personally, moments are eternal and last forever. Tatum scored 51 points in Game 7 to close out the 76ers. White’s tip in Miami. JB and JT at the All-Star Game. Bus 1 Boys. All. It’ll take time, but that’s all I’ll remember in a year, maybe a decade. And with those memories, my feelings for the Boston Celtics will return in 2022-2023.
“This is one of the best locker rooms I’ve ever been to. The boys cared and gave it their all – said Joe Mazzulla after the defeat. “That’s the most important thing you can take out of it. Of course, we didn’t reach our goal. We did not win. We failed in that respect, but it wasn’t because the guys didn’t have a sense of community, character and who they are as people.
And so, while many will want to tear that card out of Celtics history, crumple it up and throw it away, the most important remnants of this team will be here next season. Their character will not pass away. The camaraderie will only grow stronger because of disappointment. Boston will be back.
“We have shown that we can do it. We have conference finals,” Tatum said when asked what it would take to win a championship in the future. “This is my fourth time in six years. I’ve been to the finals once. This year we had a unique opportunity. We just missed a bit. It’s not that we are not capable or have no talent. We are doing. It just didn’t go our way this year.”