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The Celtics’ magical run through the Eastern Conference finals is over after an 103-84 loss to the Miami Heat in the series finale at TD Garden on Monday.
Boston joins the 150 other NBA teams that failed to rally from down 3-0 to advance in the playoffs.
Miami will face the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals. The Celtics will enter an offseason filled with questions about their coaching staff and their biggest stars.
Jaylen Brown had as many turnovers (8) as he did field goals. He led Boston with 19 points. Jayson Tatum scored 14 on 5 of 13 shooting.
The Celtics shot just 23.7 percent from three. The Heat shot 50 percent.
Caleb Martin (26 points) and Jimmy Butler (28 points) combined to lead the Heat to their second NBA Finals berth in five years.
The Celtics entered halftime down just 11, but the Heat quickly pulled away to put the game out of hand midway through the fourth quarter. With five minutes left to play, the lower bowl of TD Garden began to empty. But not before boos rained down.
Stay tuned for reaction from Game 7.
This one is almost over.
It’s Heat 97, Celtics 79 with 3:45 to play.
CF: Pretty much the only suspense is whether Jaylen Brown holds onto his lead and commits more turnovers than the Heat. He’s up, 8-7.
NY: Derrick White is back on the bench, but not in the game. Have to assume he’s dealing with something to not be playing right now?
CR: Celtics announce that White is available to return. He’s dealing with a sore right knee.
Heat 92, Celtics 73 | 6:08, fourth quarter
CF: Well, those of us that predicted a blowout weren’t totally wrong.
NY: The Celtics had solid injury luck all postseason prior to Malcolm Brogdon’s forearm. It all seems to be crashing down this series, with Jayson Tatum’s ankle, whatever Rober Williams is dealing with, and now Derrick White, their one spark this game.
CR: Jaylen Brown picked a rough night to have a catastrophic performance.
KT: This is tough to watch. Boston is throwing up desperation 3s.
NY: Duncan Robinson once again beats the Celtics on a backdoor cut to put the Heat up by 21 points with 6:08 to go.
CF: You’d think they’d anticipate that play by now.
CR: Derrick White down the tunnel.
NY: Uh oh, Derrick White just went back to the locker room. In comes Sam Hauser.
NY: Jaylen Brown has more turnovers (7) than made field goals (6).
NY: Nice move from Jayson Tatum to get to the hoop, but he came up grimacing big time.
Heat 83, Celtics 66 | 10:50, fourth quarter
CF: Total no-show by Jaylen.
CR: 13 turnovers by the Celtics. 7 of them from Jaylen Brown.
NY: You have to imagine Derrick White is going to play the entire fourth quarter.
CF: Can’t let Tatum play one-on-one. Jaylen has to be better (he’s 6 of 18). White has to be White. And the defensive intensity has to be higher than it has been.
KT: Tatum missed a wide open layup. Miami hits a 3 on the other end. Five-point swing.
NY: Bam Adebayo has had some good looks but can’t seem to get anything to fall. He’s 1 of 7 tonight for just 4 points.
CR: Butler hits a 3, but Grant Williams answers with a trey of his own.
KT: Jaylen pulls up from Steph Curry range. Initially, I’m like … What on earth are you doing? But he created space and found Grant Williams wide open in the corner for a huge 3.
CF: Celtics have had great chances here to get the margin under 7, but just can’t get out of their own way.
NY: Jimmy Butler has made three 3-pointers tonight, but that shot is not a central component to his game. I feel like the Celtics will live with that shot selection, as opposed to him driving and getting to the line.
CF: It’s absurd to have Tatum as a primary ballhandler right now.
NY: The Celtics blew a 10 point lead in the fourth quarter last game. Tonight they’ll have to erase one.
CR: Caleb Martin is just torching this team
Heat 66, Celtics 59 | 2:20, third quarter
KM: 16 points — leading the Celtics — in 29 minutes.
KT: Derrick White seems to really want to make a trip back to Colorado …
CF: White is being as aggressive as I’ve ever seen him.
Heat 66, Celtics 58 | 4:49, third quarter
CF: Tatum can’t move at all defensively.
CR: I would say “The Derrick White” game, but …
NY: Derrick White continues to save Boston’s season.
CF: Jaylen needs to stop trying to be the hero and make the right play. Which is passing the ball to Derrick White and getting out of the way.
NY: Derrick White for Eastern Conference Finals MVP if they come back and win this thing?
KT: Crowd seems to agree with you, Nicole.
CR: “MVP! MVP!” chants for Derrick White at the line.
NY: He scored 8 straight points to cut Miami’s lead to single digits.
Heat 59, Celtics 48 | 8:57, third quarter
KT: Miami is full court pressing now. Interesting. Do they smell blood?
NY: It almost worked!
CF: The Celtics need a reset button.
NY: Robert Williams is about to check back into the game. Still unknown what exactly he’s dealing with.
Heat 59, Celtics 43 | 10:14, third quarter
NY: Early timeout for Joe Mazzulla to start the second half. I think he just wanted to yell at the referees for the traveling call on Jayson Tatum the possession prior.
CF: Tatum did roll his ankle 26 seconds into the game. It’s obviously having an effect. but it’s hard to gauge how much. One minute he looks like himself, then he’s all out of sorts on the next play. It’s ridiculous they haven’t adjusted by trying to get him the ball in the post. Thought he might figure out how to adjust by now.
NY: Tatum’s back and going to the start the second half. Still no sign of Robert Williams.
CF: Celtics need to push the pace on offense. Even when they’ve had the chance, the pull the ball out and allow Miami to get its defense set. Miami actually has more fast-break points, 12-2.
KT: The Celtics are standing around trying to turn this into a 3-point shooting contest. They’ve taken 5 more than Miami and have made half as many. Who is going to attack the rim and force the Heat to rotate? Jaylen has been trying (a little too hard), but the Celtics need more effective slashing from their guards.
CR: Doesn’t help that Malcolm Brogdon looks … real bad out there. -15 in just 7 minutes.
CF: They need to play with their identity from LAST year. Defense first.
And Brogdon is unplayable.
NY: Especially when you have Derrick White!
CF: He really shouldn’t leave the court.
KT: The bad news: The Celtics are colder than a New England winter. 41 total points in an entire half of an elimination game? Gross.
The good news: Law of averages says they’ll probably heat up in the second half.
NY: All things considered, the Celtics are pretty fortunate to be down by only 11. Definitely seems like it could be a lot worse, given their poor shooting from three (4 of 21) and Jayson Tatum’s possible ankle injury.
CF: This whole game was supposed to be the law of averages game after going 7 of 35 from 3 in Game 6. They. Are. Due.
CR: 3-point shooting so far tonight:
Miami: 8-of-16 (50%)
Boston: 4-of-21 (19%)
Sure seems like that’s been the ballgame so far.
CF: Brogdon and Grant Williams were both minus-15.
KM: Caleb Martin lead all scorers with 14 points. Jaylen Brown has 13, and Jayson Tatum has 7.
KT: The refs aren’t causing the Celtics to go 4 for 20 from 3. Boston needs to focus.
CF: Yeah, seeing a lot of their frustrating habits. Marcus is getting caught up in trying to draw fouls rather than just playing. He still doesn’t have an assist.
Heat 47, Celtics 39 | 1:45, second quarter
CF: Tatum needs to stop talking to Tony Brothers.
NY: Both teams seem to be frustrated with the officiating. Bam Adebayo just picked up his third personal — an offensive foul away from the ball — with 2:41 to go in the second.
Heat 47, Celtics 34 | 3:19, fourth quarter
NY: Robert Williams is going back to the locker room.
KM: Don’t forget he had to get his wrist taped early in Game 6.
NY: Caleb Martin keeps making tough shots for the Heat. He’s up to 14 points on 6 of 10 shooting.
KT: Isaiah Thomas is shown on the jumbotron smiling and pointing to his watch as if to say: “You know what time it is.”
Heat 38, Celtics 25 | 6:50, second quarter
CF: Tatum is clearly hurting. Big grimace after the steal and breakaway layup. Celtics would be wise to try to get him the ball closer to the hoop rather than counting on him to beat the defense off the dribble.
Heat 38, Celtics 21 | 7:22, second quarter
CR: Al Horford buries a 3-pointer for Boston … at last.
KT: And Gabe Vincent answers immediately with one of his own.
CR: Every time the Celtics sink a 3-pointer, Miami has the answer. Lowry sinks one right after Brown.
KT: … And every time has only been twice. Celtics have missed 13 of their 15 three-point attempts.
Heat 27, Celtics 15 | 10:41, second quarter
NY: Haywood Highsmith is getting some minutes for the Heat. I do not expect to see Cody Zeller tonight.
CF: Can Millar hit a 3?
Celtics are now 6 of 24 from the field and 0 for 11 from 3.
KT: Can he motivate the Celtics to swing the ball?
NY: Jayson Tatum is on the bench testing his ankle out with trainer Nick Sang. He’s checking back in to start the second half.
NY: Jack Harlow is also here, wearing a Celtics jacket despite having a song called “Tyler Herro.”
KT: The ball is stopping with Jaylen right now and it’s killing the Celtics’ flow.
KM: The Celtics have turned over the ball four times — leading to four points by the Heat — vs. the Heat’s one turnover. Jaylen Brown has eight points.
NY: The Celtics’ second effort on the glass has been paying off, as 7 of their 15 points have come after offensive rebounds. Not much else is working for the offensive right now.
Heat 15, Celtics 11 | 2:34, first quarter
CR: Not exactly the sharpest start for Boston’s offense tonight. Mark that 3 turnovers for Jaylen Brown.
CF: Celtics are 0 of 8 from 3. Heat have hit two in a row and are 2 of 5.
KM: Upon review, Caleb Martin’s 3 is now a 2.
CF: Jaylen has the three turnovers. The Heat have one.
KT: Former Boston athlete watch: Rodney Harrison, Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Isaiah Thomas spotted so far.
Celtics 11, Heat 11 | 3:43, first quarter
KT: Tatum is setting the tone on the glass. He already has five boards.
CR: Celtics 0-for-5 from 3 to start this one.
NY: Here comes Malcolm Brogdon for his first minutes since sitting out Game 6 with right forearm soreness. We’ll see if he has any success shooting, after going 1 of 13 in Games 3-5.
Jayson Tatum checks out of the game and stays on the bench. I would have been more concerned about his ankle if he had gone to the locker room.
NY: Sitting next to one another courtside: Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce, Tito Horford.
Celtics 7, Heat 4 | 8:15, first quarter
KT: First field goal of the game is a contested Jaylen Brown midrange shot.
NY: Bam Adebayo breaks Heat’s slow start with a layup. Miami will need him to be aggressive offensively.
KT: Much easier look from Tatum to Horford inside on the next bucket. Need those.
CF: TNT is 20 seconds into the broadcast before Stan Van Gundy mentions the Heat’s undrafted players. New record for that reference.
NY: One quick way to simmer down the TD Garden: Jayson Tatum on the ground holding his ankle in pain. He got up and seemed to walk it off, but obviously something to monitor moving forward.
Yang: Celtics win. I wrote about how the Heat went all in on Game 6. Their plan was two tenths of a second away from working. I just don’t expect them to have anything left in the tank.
Thompson: Boston played bad enough at the end to blow Game 6, but Derrick White’s tip-in signaled that there play be some playoff magic left for the Celtics going forward. Celtics win.
Ryan: Game 6 was Miami’s opportunity. Their role players delivered, Boston shot poorly from 3-point range and the C’s offense stalled in crunch time. Miami had its shot, and White saved Boston’s season. I don’t think as many breaks are going to fall the Heat’s way once again on Monday. Boston wins big in Game 7.
Finn: The Celtics, big, if they knock down a normal percentage of 3s and play with defensive intensity and pace from the beginning. The Celtics, close, if they have a 10-point lead with 4 minutes left.
A thunderous cheer from TD Garden after Derrick White is featured on the Garden videoboard during warmups. Wonder why?
Yang: I feel like the answer to this question has to be Jayson Tatum. It’s Game 7. He’s the team’s superstar. The Celtics do have enough depth to overcome Tatum’s slow starts and random disappearances, but their offense is too overwhelming for the Heat when he’s on.
Jimmy Butler said it himself after Game 6: If he had played better and not shot 5 of 21 from the field, the outcome could have been a completely different story. Butler has yet to have a statement game this series, and he’ll have one last chance to do so tonight.
Thompson: Obvious pick here, but Jayson Tatum is the most important player on the floor tonight for Boston. As he and his jumpshot go, so do the Celtics. The Celtics play with a different level of confidence and intensity when he is going, and they’re going to need every bit of it tonight.
I’m going with Bam Adebayo as the most important player for the Heat. Jimmy Butler can be expected to get his share of points, but he’s going to need help. The Heat will need a complete performance from their second best player on the boards and in the paint.
Ryan: A superstar performance from Tatum would come in handy in another Game 7, as would Jaylen Brown building off of promising showings in Games 5 and 6. But I’m going to go with the hero of Game 6 in Derrick White. Adding White back into the starting lineup has given Boston a huge lift, and he’s done it all in this series as far as sinking shots from 3-point range while also smothering Jimmy Butler on defense, especially on Saturday. If he continues to excel in both areas on Monday, the Celtics should punch their ticket to the NBA Finals.
Butler justifiably gets most of the criticism for this ongoing collapse by the Heat, but what about Bam Adebayo? Over the last four games, he’s only averaging 12.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. If the Heat want to hold off Boston, they’re going to need Adebayo to convert on chances in the paint and keep possessions alive with offensive rebounds.
Finn: I agree on Tatum and Butler. They’re the alphas — I kind of hate that term, but it fits — and expect both to show up big-time, though I wonder how close Butler’s gauge is to empty. So I’ll add a 1A and a 1B here. For the Celtics, I’m going to go off the board and say Al Horford has a big shooting game. He’s overdue, and he feeds off the crowd as much as any Celtic. For the Heat, Bam Adebayo has to be better. He was dismal at home in Game 6. They have no chance if he does that again.
Heat star Jimmy Butler is known for his durability, and he played 48 minutes in last year’s Game 7 between these teams. He logged 47 in Game 6, so it’s certainly possible that he will go the distance Monday night.
The problem for the Heat was that before Butler summoned one last burst in the final few minutes of the Game 6 comeback, he looked gassed. He didn’t have his usual burst or lift.
Butler turns 34 in September, and perhaps all the extra mileage is taking its toll. But it’s also dangerous to count him out.
Tatum, who turned 25 in March, should be on the court whenever Butler is out there.
Also, backup center Cody Zeller’s brief stints have been a disaster for Miami. If Bam Adebayo doesn’t play the full 48, coach Erik Spoelstra might have to consider a brief small-ball stint instead. — Adam Himmelsbach
By Dan Shaughnessy
“When you get to Game 7, anything can happen.”
That’s what Kevin Millar famously said as the Red Sox — trailing the Yankees three games to zero — prepared to play Game 4 of the ALCS on a Sunday night at Fenway in October of 2004.
Millar said those same words one week ago after the Celtics were smoked by the Miami Heat in the third game of the 2023 NBA Eastern Conference finals.
“If you’re the Celtics you can either feel sorry for yourselves and order your car for vacation, or you can go there and fight to get the W. It’s not winning four in a row. It’s fighting to get the W.”
It was learned Monday that the Celtics watched ESPN’s 30 for 30 “Four Days in October” in the dark hours after Game 3 in Miami. (Here’s hoping none of them noticed a much younger Globe columnist speculating that the ‘04 Sox would be remembered as “frauds” if they were swept by the Yankees).
“It was the staff’s idea,” coach Joe Mazzulla said before Game 7. “I thought it gave us a sense of inspiration and hope and gave us an opportunity to be in the position we’re in today.”
White’s Game 6 buzzer-beater kept the season alive, but it’s worth remembering that it was needed only because of yet another Celtics collapse down the stretch. The Celtics had been 0-5 during these playoffs in games within 3 points in the final two minutes, and the Heat are 4-2 in those situations.
The Celtics have been outscored by 11.4 points per 100 possessions down the stretch in games that are within 5 points in the final five minutes, and the Heat have outscored opponents by 32.2 points per 100 possessions.
A Celtics blowout is certainly possible, but if things get tight, Miami could have a mental edge. — Adam Himmelsbach
Xavier Goncalves, the 10-year-old boy battling cancer whom Jayson Tatum befriended earlier this year, is here for Game 7.
By Conor Ryan
History is on the Celtics’ side entering Monday’s Game 7 against the Heat.
No team has won more Game 7s than the Celtics (27) and while they’ve played the most Game 7s in NBA history (36), they also have the highest winning percentage among all teams that have played in multiple Game 7s (.750).
The Celtics’ current group of stars has fared well in Game 7s, too. Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart are 6-1 in Game 7s over their careers while Jayson Tatum has gone 5-1 in Game 7s in his career.
The Celtics have sent out their pregame injury report. Malcolm Brogdon is available to play.
The Sixth Man of the Year was an essential piece of the bench this year, providing important scoring pop on nights when Jayson Tatum or Jaylen Brown was struggling. But he has been slowed by a right forearm strain during this series.
He went 1 for 13 from the field with 2 points over Games 3-5 combined, and then he sat out the Game 6 win because of the injury.
Given his recent effectiveness and Derrick White’s surge, coach Joe Mazzulla probably will not give Brogdon much room for error. If his first stint goes badly, there might not be a second one.
Kevin Harlan’s exuberance when he has the opportunity to make a memorable call in a memorable moment makes him a blast to listen to, no matter the sport or circumstance.
If his “with no regard for human life!” isn’t the best catchphrase/recurring call of any NBA broadcaster, it’s only because his “climbing the ladder and dropping the sledgehammer!” is also pretty great.
Which in a sense is why his call of the final seconds of the Celtics’ 104-103 victory Saturday in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals on TNT was so impressive.
Earlier today, a reporter “broke” a story that said the Heat have a flight booked to Denver. Asked if that news has been a topic of discussion among the team, coach Joe Mazzulla said, “No.”
Here’s the thing: Of course the Heat have a flight booked to Denver. It would be a logistical nightmare if they did not. Game 1 of the Finals is Thursday, with media day on Wednesday. It would be inefficient for the Heat to fly three hours home to Miami after the game and then, if they win, get on a plane again for four hours on Tuesday. The fact that the Heat have a flight routed to Denver is not news. They are not trying to get ahead of themselves; they are just planning and following the same protocol as every other NBA team. — Nicole Yang
By Gary Washburn
The bizarre final seconds of the Celtics’ miracle 104-103 Game 6 win over the Miami Heat was merely the latest episode in what has been a bizarre series.
Marcus Smart split two free throws with 16.9 seconds left to give the Celtics an uncomfortable 2-point lead. Jimmy Butler took the inbound pass guarded by Jayson Tatum, and then called for a pick from Bam Adebayo so he could be switched on to Al Horford. Tatum, who had defended Butler well in the series, likely should have gone under the screen so he could continue defending Butler, but Horford aggressively stepped forward to take on the challenge. Moments later, Butler drove to the right corner and drew a shooting foul on Horford with 2.1 seconds showing.
This is where things get hairy.
Washburn spoke with Monty McCutchen, the NBA’s head of referee development, about the officiating. Here are the details.
By Christopher L. Gasper
It would be fitting for the NBA’s most fabled franchise to go boldly where no team has gone before. History is the Celtics’ brand, woven into the franchise’s fabric. It would be apropos for this iteration of the Celtics, a bunch of basketball BASE jumpers who live to flirt with their demise, to become the first team to do it. One-hundred and fifty teams before them have tried and 150 have failed. But there’s always a first time.
Who’s betting against the Celtics now? They have bounced back like a rubber band of brothers. Destiny is banging at their door. All they have to do is answer. That shouldn’t be difficult for a team that does its best work when it’s do or be done.
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