There will be scars.
That’s all we know this morning, and the wounds of the Celtics’ six-game loss to the Golden State Warriors are still fresh.
Only in the upcoming Celtics season will we know for sure if it’s a scar that doubles as a badge of pride, a reminder of a hard but necessary lesson on the road to eventual success.
Or maybe it’ll be another scar, a jagged, and permanent assumption, a reminder of a wrong moment that will never be righted or vindicated.
The Celtics’ exhilarating, exhausting season ended Thursday night with a 103-90 loss to the Warriors — now four-time champions of the Stephen Curry era.
The Warriors, who won the final three games of the series, deserve as much as the championship. There’s nothing shameful about falling on the big mouths of Curry, Klay Thompson, and yes, even Draymond Green, who supports it. They are legends of their time and of all ages.
The Celtics’ eventual loss epitomizes their worst and best traits, isn’t that what it is?
They were careless about basketball when they got it (22 turnovers, fell to 0-8 in the playoffs when they made at least 16) and failed to make sure it was too much when they needed to Frequent (the Warriors collected 15 offensive rebounds).
They did put up 27 assists, but had to endure the usual bouts of my my turn your turn yours isolation ball as usual, which stalled the offense. Jaylen Brown got a lot (34 points) but didn’t make those around him better, and Jayson Tatum (13 points) lost his way at the worst, if it weren’t for so many NBA superstars Coming of age, that would be worrisome. I do think it’s fair to say the Celtics never fully repaired their offense even though they made a huge turnaround after starting the season 18-21 defect. They just let them go for a while.
However, they never gave up and saw the Warriors end the game 21-0 in the first and second quarters, an early 14-2 lead disappearing…or 54-39 at halftime When leading…even when the admirable, obnoxious Curry hit a long 3 with just over six minutes left in the third to give the Warriors a 72-50 lead. (I admit this is when I think it’s over. Admit it. You too.)
The Celtics’ defensive effort never faded, and with 44.1 seconds left in the third quarter, 36-year-old Al Horford made a regular 3-pointer (19 points, 14 rebounds, 4 3-pointers, 1 1 block, 1 bend) cut the Warriors’ lead to 9 (74-65), the first single-digit hit since the middle of the second quarter.
The Warriors, often aided by Celtics turnovers, always had answers, and after their final comeback attempt was stifled in the fourth quarter, Celtics head coach Ime Udoka called off his call with 1:3 left. Starter, his team fell 13. It’s about time because they’re out of date, but it’s hard to see them go.
If the ending hurts you, it’s because we know these are lingering losses. Every time I see Kendrick Perkins on ESPN or NBC Sports Boston, every time, I think about the knee injury that kept him out of the Game 7 loss to the Lakers in 2010. Hey, did you see Rasheed Wallace getting a coaching job with the Lakers at Darwinham? If only he was in better shape in that Game 7…
The Celtics’ appearance in the Finals this year was their first since a 10-year loss, and how long it lasts — and how obvious the new scars become — depends on what happens next. In the long run, the Celtics are in very good shape. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have proven they can be top scorers on a competitive team and are entering their prime. The core of the team signed. Assuming his knees are healthy, Robert Williams is still on the rise, while Horford still insists he’s five years younger than he is.
Udoka is the ideal modern coach to lead them. Gosh, how fit are they to get that position? I was almost pissed that he never had a chance before this.
But there has to be a change. Derrick White, Grant Williams and Peyton Pritchard — the three core backups — have been terrible late in the series. White’s brilliant first game, when he hit five 3-pointers, felt like it happened at a different time and place. The three of them went 2-for-10 from the field in Game 6 for a negative 64 points.
An experienced striker or winger is needed to extend the bench with a more reliable option. Am I the only one who believes that Aaron Nesmith will be a useful contributor once the game slows down for him? I’m not sure if he’s a touted shooter, but his defense is like fire in his shoes.
It’s easy to overlook now, but the team has really validated itself in the process. They swept the nasty Nets, defeated Giannis Antetokounmpo and the championship Bucks from a 3-2 deficit, and won Game 7 in Miami. Over the next few weeks, many satisfying memories will surface.
Unfortunately, at this point, all we can think about right now is how it ended and how close the Celtics are to achieving their championship dreams. We haven’t been reminded of this for more than a decade, but it turns out it’s still true: The deeper you get into the playoffs, the more hurtful the ending is.
And the resulting scars? It never fades. But it’s up to these Celtics — these talented, maddening, dedicated, annoying, resilient Celtics — whether it’s the ultimate reminder of the lessons learned on the road to greatness, Or lost a unique opportunity that will never come again.
I believe it is the former. Just hope we don’t have to find answers this way.
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