BOSTON — The Celtics ended the Eastern Conference finals on their backs, dropping Game 7 at TD Garden to the Miami Heat as their spirited attempt at becoming the first team in NBA history to erase a 3-0 deficit fell short.
The disappointing ending will become just the latest in a long line of seasons to end without Banner 18. But it comes with a positive perspective from the members of Boston’s coaching staff, roster and perhaps even fans.
“It’s one of the best locker rooms I’ve been a part of,” Celtics head coach Joe Mazzulla said postgame. “Guys cared. They gave it everything they had. That’s the most important thing to take from this. Obviously, we didn’t achieve our goal; we didn’t win, which was our goal. So, we failed in that regard, but it’s not because the guys didn’t have a sense of togetherness, character and just who they are as people.”
The Celtics’ ability to advance as far as they did was a win in some respects, especially considering the winding road they were sent down just prior to the start of the season.
“I mean, it was (Mazzulla’s) first year, we got to the conference finals Game 7,” Jayson Tatum said. “I don’t think people give him or us enough credit that, two days before season starts, we find out we’re going to have a new coach. We didn’t have (Robert Williams III) the first 25, 30 games of the season. We never got a chance to have (Danilo Gallinari) and we got a new coach one day before media day. That was an adjustment. We all figured it out. Obviously, we wanted to win the championship, but it didn’t happen.”
“It’s been a hell of a year,” Jaylen Brown said. “Those guys in that locker room are warriors, resilient. It’s been an honor to share the locker room with a lot of those guys. Despite whatever circumstance that we’ve had this year, we’ve rose to the occasion. We got to this point and we came up short.”
Here are some more notes from Celtics-Heat Game 7:
— Tatum sat for the final four minutes of the first quarter after suffering an ankle injury, a period in which the Heat closed on an 18-4 run. The Celtics didn’t make a single shot from the field over the course of his absence, sparking what would become the story of the night.
— Boston began the game 0-for-12 from beyond the arc. Al Horford knocked down the C’s first outside shot attempt with 9:53 left in the second quarter, breaking a streak of over six minutes without a field goal. In a night where his team finished shooting 21.4% from beyond the arc, Mazzulla defended the three-point shot.
— Jimmy Butler was named the Eastern Conference finals MVP following the game, joining Tatum as the first two Larry Bird Trophy winners. The award came down to one vote, with Butler edging out a disrespected Caleb Martin for the trophy.
— The Heat will meet the Denver Nuggets in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday. Tipoff from Ball Arena is scheduled for 8:30p.m. ET.