Boston — Not yet.
That was the message powerfully delivered to the Boston Celtics after the Golden State Warriors fought their way to a lopsided 103-90 win in Game Six to win the 2022 NBA Championship.
As much as the young talent being hired at Boston, the Celtics have simply been so vulnerable and wrong they can’t deny the Warriors a fourth Larry O’Brien Cup since 2015.
The Celtics’ problems have never been more evident than during Thursday’s loss at TD Garden.
Most impactful was when the 3:31 match was left, Jason Tatum skipped a wide open 3-point attempt and traveled as the crowd in Boston urged him to pull the trigger.
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Tatum, the 24-year-old Celtics All-NBA playmaker, scored just two points in the second half and 13 on aggregate in a 6-of-18 shot in a disappointing performance that underscores just how necessary the Celtics have matured.
“It’s hard to get to that point,” Tatum said. “It’s hard to get over the hump. It’s been a long, long process ride. That’s what I took from it. You have to rise to another level to do what we want to do.”
“I feel like I could have done a lot of things better.”
Celtics coach Emi Udoka said Tatum needs to “learn and understand who he is” in the NBA and get used to being challenged by great teams.
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“This is just the beginning of how guarded you are and the attention you attract,” Odoka said of Tatum, who has also done five transformations. “This team has been tough. A very consistent team that has done things to limit it. He needs to understand that he is going to see this for the rest of his career. He is a very passionate guy who works very hard and he is going to find out and push forward.
“We had guys who were very motivated and they didn’t give their best.”
However, the TD Garden fans seemed to give the Celtics a jolt of the edge as Tatum and Jaylen Brown exhausted their three-pointers while the offense executed a later effective strategy to take a 14-2 lead.
Then came Boston’s blunders. The Celtics were fickle with the ball, a fundamental flaw that reared its head throughout the series. With the Warriors taking only four of their first 12 shots, the Warriors made nine of their next 13 shots to continue a 21-0 run between the end of the first quarter and into the second.
The Celtics, who lost control of the series after losing Game 4 at TD Garden, have not regained control of the game.
“They win and we lose,” Brown said after the match. “We did it for ourselves. Sure, we had chances to go and win, but we showed our immaturity at times. It stings. Still a young group, there is a lot to learn. Tough day for Boston, tough day for Celtics.”
“This wasn’t just our time.”
The Celtics made a small 7-0 boost midway through the second quarter, but the Warriors ended up outselling them 52-25 after Boston advanced 14-2 early to take a 54-39 advantage in the half. The Celtics managed the ball more than 13 times in the first half and 23 times in the game; Boston was 1-8 in the playoffs when it committed 16 or more turns in a game and hit that number on all four losses for the Warriors.
Udoka said, “Because our sales have accumulated throughout the series, you can look at the chest points and see if we won or lost based on those numbers. We gave them over 20 (points) on turnovers and over 20 second chances. We didn’t give ourselves a real chance.”
Boston was praised as the innermost team, but the bench failed in Game Six. The Celtics bench players scored a plus-minus -67. Warriors seat was +41 in the first two quarters. The Celtics total five points in the game.
The Celtics struggled with 16-4 to make the 10-point game by the end of the third quarter, a streak of play punctuated by a three-point play by Alhorford and a subsequent block at the other end.
However, the Celtics couldn’t get past their mistakes. They couldn’t get past their gaps in focus. They were unable to bypass the fate of the Warriors.
“Every possession has a purpose,” said Robert Williams Center III. “The other team in the locker room realized it but we didn’t.”
Tatum, 24, along with fellow youngsters Brown, 25, Williams, 24, and others could lead the Celtics to several NBA Finals, but their relative inexperience and penchant for making mistakes proved this group was not yet ready. .
“It will hurt and hurt for a while,” Odoka said. “Let it push us forward with the growth and progress we’ve had this season. A lot of the players out there are very emotional at the moment. The biggest message was to learn from this and realize there is another level to go to.
“Don’t get used to it. Players, coaching staff. Let this feed you.”
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