The Boston Celtics may have lost the NBA Finals, but from Coach Ime Udoka on down the line, they collectively believe one thing.
“The future is bright,” Udoka said after Game 6. “And we’re just getting started.”
Ime Udoka: “The future is bright and we’re just getting started.”— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) June 17, 2022
The Boston Celtics proved to be one of the most, if not the most resilient teams in the NBA; after finishing the season with the second-best record in the East despite a .500 start through the first 50 games of the year, Boston flipped a switch during the second half of the season and won 26 of their final 32 games and finished the season with the best defense in the League.
Boston’s turnaround led to them going on a revenge tour through the Eastern Conference Finals, beating each team that eliminated them in the last three postseasons. It started with a sweep of the Nets, beat the Bucks in 7, and did the same to the Miami Heat.
“This is tough, getting to this point and not accomplishing what we wanted to,” a dejected Jayson Tatum said after finishing with 13 points on 6-18 shooting in 40 minutes per ESPN. “It hurts. You know, we all could have done things better. I feel like I could have done a lot of things better. But, you know, like we said, we competed, we tried all season, all playoffs.”
When they got to the Finals, the Celtics looked like a legitimate threat to win the title as Tatum razzled and dazzled his way into the superstar debate. Jaylen Brown proved that any thoughts Boston should break up the Tatum-Brown wing duo were premature, Marcus Smart won the DPOY, and Robert Williams and Al Horford proved to be the best frontcourt combo for a team that wants to switch 1-5.
Through the first three games of the Finals, the Celtics were neck and neck with the Warriors and grabbed a 2-1 lead. Boston could find a way to win no matter how big the deficit was. Then Game 4 happened, and Stephen Curry dropped perhaps the most consequential performance of his career with a 43-point outing in a 107-97 win. No problem, though. Boston was 7-0 after losses.
However, that streak was broken when Golden State won a Game 5 they had no business in winning, 104-94, as Andrew Wiggins made up for Curry being unable to keep up his torrid scoring pace with a 26-point, 13 rebound outing. Okay, no sweat, Boston is going back to TD Garden; no way they lose at home — right?
Wrong; despite Boston coming out of the cannon with a 14-2 run, Golden State took that punch and threw it right back with a 35-8 run, from which the Celtics never returned. They cut it to nine late in the third quarter, but their season-worst 22 turnovers were too much to overcome. After all, Boston is 0-8 when they turned the ball over at least 15 times.
“It’s going to hurt. It will hurt for a while. Probably that stuff never goes away. I’ve lost one before.” Udoka said, who was on the Spurs’ coaching staff when they lost to the Miami Heat in seven games in 2013.
“That was part of the message. Let it propel us forward, the experience. Growth and progress that we made this season. Obviously, getting to your ultimate goal and fall a few games short is going to hurt. There are a lot of guys in there [that are] very emotional right now.”
Watching pops getting buckets in the Finals >> pic.twitter.com/44tkCXR4SG— SLAM (@SLAMonline) June 17, 2022
Boston’s first Finals appearance since 2010, losing in such a devestating matter will haunt the Celtics, especially after blowing some prime opportunity to go up 3-1 in Game 4 and having the chance to go up 3-2 at home in Game 5. But now, this loss could prove to be the fire Tatum and Brown need to destroy the East and make it back to the Final.
With a healthy Brooklyn, Miami, and Milwaukee in the way, it won’t be an easy task, but like Udoka and his team said, the future is bright.
“The future is bright,” Brown said. “I always look at adversity as opportunities to shape an individual. For whatever reason, it wasn’t our time. That means we still got a lot to learn. Personally, I still got a lot to learn.
“For me, it’s always about growth. Continuing to get better, continuing to find different ways to lead. That’s what it’s about. The future is bright. I’m excited to get back next year.”