On Monday night, the Boston Celtics’ Jekyll and Hyde routine came to an end.
150 NBA teams have tried unsuccessfully to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the playoff series. The Celtics lost to the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals with 151 points. The final game of the momentum-filled series was not evenly matched. Miami held a double-digit lead for most of the night and won comfortably 103-84. It was Boston’s third home loss of the series and a bitter disappointment for a team that advanced to the NBA Finals last season and hoped to return.
“I failed, I failed too,” a dejected Jaylen Brown told reporters after the match. “We let the whole city down.”
For much of the regular season and this playoff, the Celtics have looked like an unstoppable offensive powerhouse (Games 4 and 5 against Miami) or listless and listless (Games 3 and 3). and the 7th round) were repeated. Few players have swayed from dominance to dominance more violently from dominance to dominance than the Celtics have this season. Entering the playoffs, however, the Celtics still harbor championship hopes, with franchise centerpieces Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and a versatile roster ready to complement them, on their way to victory. i was sure i would find it.
Tatum, 25, and Brown, 26, have done unexpectedly well in the postseason for most of their careers. Exceeding expectations has become their brand. It will be at least the fourth conference finals appearance in the last six years.
But after Boston lost to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals last season, the bar has been raised this year. The goal was the championship. Tatum, Brown and their teammates could no longer exceed expectations. The Celtics were expected.
Instead, the Celtics will have to ponder whether Brown and Tatum can be the partnership that gets the team over the final hurdle. And Celtics owner and team president Brad Stevens will have to decide if 34-year-old head coach Joe Mazura, who has just one season on the team, is the right person to lead the team. deaf.
Mazura was unexpectedly given the job just before training camp in September after the sudden suspension and eventual dismissal of Ime Udoka.
He was an amazing choice. His only head coaching experience was at Fairmont State University in the West Virginia Division II program, where he was an NBA assistant for three years. Suddenly he was tasked with taking the team to the top of the mountain.
Forward Danilo Gallinari, one of the Celtics’ big acquisitions last summer, tore a ligament in his knee and missed the season. And one of the team’s defensive anchors, Robert Williams III, didn’t make his debut until April due to a knee injury. Still, Mazura got the Celtics off to a 21-5 start.
But in the regular season, the Celtics continued to play sluggish, headache-inducing, as if they had hit a single blow. 28-point lead over Nets March. That carried over into the playoffs, where the Celtics consistently took double-digit leads against the Heat. Still, they were pushing hard to get to the NBA Finals.
“It’s still happening,” Celtics center Al Horford said of the team’s shift in performance. “It’s a pattern that happens to us. A few things have to change in this regard, so we’re going to have to look at ourselves there.”
For some people the verdict is clear: You can’t swing like that. Mazura, who doesn’t take timeouts and tends to lead the Celtics into flat-out efforts like Monday night, isn’t the right person for the job.
For those with half-visible glasses, Mazzura’s first year as coach was memorable, as he didn’t have enough offseason to prepare.He hastily set up a system that leads to the runner-up. Offense and Defense in the NBA Tatum and Brown had a great season. As for pointing out that inexperience might not be the right fit for the job, Mazura has experience over the next year, will play solid in the playoffs, and completely transform in the offseason. deaf. And his biggest star offered support on Monday.
“I think Joe did a great job. We won 50-odd weird games,” Tatum said. “We’ve made it to Game 7 of the conference finals. Obviously, everyone can do better. We can learn from this. But I think Joe did a great job.”
Some decisions about roster building ahead of next season may not be up to Boston at all. The team has neither cap space nor particularly valuable draft picks. Brown, who made the All-NBA second team this year, will become a free agent after next season. He’s eligible for a nearly $300 million contract extension if he chooses to stay with the Celtics, a sum no other team can offer him.
The biggest problem with Boston’s roster is that the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement will impose more restrictions on building rosters for higher-spending teams. This means that keeping Tatum and Brown together could be nearly impossible, even if the Celtics want to continue to strengthen their team around them.
And Brown may not want to stay. In multiple interviews this season, Brown has expressed misgivings about his life in Boston.
Asked Monday night about his thought process going into the offseason considering a potential contract extension, Brown was silent for several seconds.
“To be honest, I don’t even know how to answer that question right now,” Brown said.
Tatum was more explicit, saying it was “very important” to re-sign Brown.
“He’s one of the best players in this league,” Tatum said. “He plays on both sides of the ball and is still relatively young.
Brown has certainly grown this season. Sometimes he, not Tatum, was the team’s best player. In the playoffs, however, Brown was once again unreliable and the defense focused on his biggest weakness: ball-handling.
This is a challenge for the Celtics. Given their ages, it’s entirely possible, and even possible, that the Celtics aren’t performing the best of Tatum and Brown. With a summer of preparation for Mazura, another leap forward for Tatum and Brown, and a perfectly healthy roster, they’ll undoubtedly be in contention again for the title. Growth doesn’t have to be linear.
That’s the easy and convenient solution. But what if that’s the limit of the league’s best young tandem? With the NBA’s strict cap limits, the Celtics don’t have much to grow other than a move from Brown.
The Celtics faced a similar predicament 20 years ago with Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker, two beloved All-Stars. At the time, they were about the same age and stage in their careers as Tatum and Brown are today. Pierce was clearly the better player, but Walker helped Pierce lead the team to the conference finals in 2002. When Danny Ainge took over the team’s basketball operations the following year, he dismantled the team and traded Walker for himself and Pierce peaking. as a pairing. While the fan base was initially frustrated, the move ultimately paid off, winning the championship in 2008.
With titles a fine line between the NBA’s true contenders and high-level contenders, with just a recent title win, which path will the Celtics take to firmly place their team in the contenders’ camp? facing a difficult problem.