The Celtics need to stop complaining about the refereeing and regain their composure. And Jayson Tatum needs to step up and play like a first All-NBA player. Tatum had 27 points and 10 rebounds on Monday, but it was a 1-point game in the fourth quarter and Tatum again rolled down the stretch, shooting 1 of 5 with no rebounds or assists in 11 soft minutes of the fourth. It was minus 13 for the night.
The Celtics can still fix things. They have already won two Game 7s and three playoff games in their grueling playoff spring. Only one NBA team (1988 Lakers) has won three seven-game series and if the Celts do so this weekend, they will be the first team in NBA history to win two Game 7s on the road.
If that makes you feel better, the green team has history on its side, too.
Bill Russell and Co. won Game 7 at the LA Forum against Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor in 1969.
Dave Cowens, John Havlicek and Jo Jo White won a Game 7 Mecca in Milwaukee over Lew Alcindor and Oscar Robertson in 1974.
Now Tatum and Jaylen Brown must win Games 6 and 7 against Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, who have won three NBA crowns since 2015.
These Celtics always seem to do things the hard way. They needed to win a Game 6 playoff at Milwaukee in the conference semifinals and they needed to win Game 7 on the road in the conference finals against Miami. They missed a golden opportunity last Friday night at the Garden, being outclassed 17-3 in the final five minutes of a 10-point loss.
“We don’t do that [expletive] on purpose,” Tatum said, “I promise you we won’t.
“We understand the opportunities that have been lost,” coach Ime Udoka admitted ahead of Game 5.
The rookie bench boss was talking about Boston’s flop late in Game 4 at Garden Friday, giving Golden State home-court advantage for the final three games.
Monday was perhaps even more demoralizing. The Celtics couldn’t win on a night when Steph Curry went 0 for 9 on 3-point attempts and scored just 16 points – the first time in 233 games that Curry failed to drain a three . Andrew Wiggins (he was once the No. 1 pick in the nation) started for 26 points and 13 rebounds. And there was more of Tatum’s weak sauce, which has yet to assert itself on the finish. Tatum did not play as an All-NBA debut player. Meanwhile, Brown made just 5 of 18 shots, returned it five times and had a minus-19.
“The key to the game was our defense – to keep this team on 94 points,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
It’s the first time the Celtics have lost consecutive games since March 28-30 and that’s only because Udoka left four starters in Boston for one game in Toronto. The C’s are 7-1 after a loss in these playoffs.
The Celtics committed 18 turnovers (the Warriors had six). The Celts set turnover records in the final. This negligence kills the Cs. It makes you wonder if they can’t ultimately win because they don’t have a real playmaker.
Celtic Nation turns its lonely eyes on Tiny Archibald and Bob Cousy.
“We’re all a little frustrated that night,” Udoka said.
The first quarter was a Celtic stink bomb. After being outscored, 17-3, in the final five minutes of the Game 4 loss to Boston, the Celts trailed 16 in the first quarter, missing all five 3-point attempts, shooting 35% overall and committing four turnovers.
If you take the last five minutes of Game 4 and the first seven minutes of Game 5, the Celtics were outscored, 34-9, over a full 12 minutes. As Bill Belichick would say, “not what we were looking for”.
Tatum’s struggles have been a theme of the series. He needs a LeBron James game. He needs a Paul Pierce game. Even a Jimmy Butler game would do. He’s a turnover machine with 95 in the playoffs — the highest number of players dating back to 1978, according to Boston Sports Info.
The Celtics missed their first 12 3-point attempts, not connecting until the seventh minute of the second quarter. Boston trailed throughout the first half, only approaching 6 (32-26). Green, Golden State’s loudest but worst player in the first four games, got his revenge in the first two quarters of this one, scoring 8 with 4 rebounds, 3 assists and a block.
Udoka’s men came out of the blocks after half-time and took their first lead of the night (58-55) on an Al Horford three six minutes into the third. It was one of the most competitive quarterbacks in the series and ended when Jordan Poole cashed in a 40-footer at the buzzer to give the Dubs a 75-74 lead.
“We’re where we need to be,” Kerr told ABC ahead of the fourth.
He told the truth.
Led by Poole, the Warriors scored 10 straight points to start the final quarter as the Celtics – particularly Marcus Smart – began to lose their temper. The immature Celtics took 31 free throws to the Warriors’ 15, but still complained all night and recovered two techniques. Tatum missed four free throws, which sounded like some sort of metaphor. The Warriors are 11-1 at home in these playoffs and will be home Sunday if the Celtics can force a Game 7.
Fathers Day. Game 7. At Mission Bay. Wouldn’t that be cool? I wonder if Del Curry, Michael Thompson, Gary Payton Sr. and Tito Horford will be there.
It’s not over yet.
It’s like that.