BOSTON — It took less than a minute for the Celtics’ odds to win Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals to plummet.
Jayson Tatum, an All-NBA player who could (humbly) be argued as one of the five best basketball players in the world, went down in a heap just 26 seconds into Monday night’s loss at TD Garden. The 25-year-old grabbed at his left ankle before eventually returning to his feet, walking to the line and hitting one of two free throws. The two-minute stretch was a rollercoaster of emotions for Celtics fans, but would devolve into a disaster once it became clear he wasn’t quite right.
If a 14-point performance in an elimination game isn’t enough for you believe that, perhaps the man himself can convince you.
“It’s tough because it kind of impacted me the rest of the night,” Tatum said. “It swelled up and it was just frustrating that I was kind of like a shell of myself. It was tough to move. Just frustrating, especially it happening on the first play.”
The four-time All-Star shot 5-for-13 from the field, seemingly deferring on offense for the first time all season. He chipped in where he could, grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing out four assists, but the combination of his low-scoring effort and the Heat targeting him on defense where enough to render one of the best players in the NBA largely ineffective for the Celtics, though a short stretch having irreversible damage is life in sports.
“I don’t want nobody to feel bad for me. Unfortunately, injuries are a part of this game,” Tatum said. “I’ve been fortunate enough, up until this point I never miss games. I played 95 percent of the games since I’ve been in the league, top two in minutes since I’ve been in the league. It just was an unfortunate fall tonight on the first play of the game. Something I was trying to battle through throughout the game.”
The severity of the injury was never revealed during the game, but was clear to anyone watching. Boston tried to play through Jaylen Brown as a way to work around the injury, which went about as poorly as anyone could have imagined — setting the Celtics up miss out on Banner 18 once again.