About two hours after Game 6, I walked past the Golden State locker room and saw the remnants of a short but wild party. Empty bottles lay everywhere, with Modelo and Moet being the most popular drinks.
▪ Say what you want about Green, but this man is an elite troll. TD Garden fans in Game 4 received white jerseys that featured all 17 Boston Championship banners, with an empty space for #18. Greene got one, and after winning Game 6, he or an accomplice used a black jersey. marker to write “Warriors” over a blank banner and “No!! Maybe at 23”, inside of him. He then wore the shirt during the flight home.
▪ These teams meet only twice in the regular season, and one final game isn’t enough to spark a real rivalry. But thanks to some small battles – mostly involving Green – the seeds are certainly there. Some have already suggested that this rematch should be shown on Christmas Day next season. But as long as Kyrie Irving stays in Brooklyn – which is not certain – it should be the Celtics against the Nets and the Warriors against the Grizzlies.
▪ But if you just can’t wait until next year for a chance at revenge, the Celtics and Warriors will face off in the Las Vegas Summer League on July 12 at 8:00 pm. Do you feel excited?
▪ Former Celtics basketball president Danny Ainge told me over a month ago that he was going back to Boston to play the US Open at The Country Club in Brooklyn. So it’s no wonder he was at TD Garden last Thursday.
Ainge ran the franchise for 18 years before retiring last summer and eventually becoming Jazz’s CEO and deputy manager again. His son, Austin, is still the assistant general manager of the Celtics, and he remains quite close to just about every player in the franchise.
So somehow it didn’t feel out of place to see Ainge, the top-ranking member of another NBA team, walking down the tunnel with Tatum and Jaylen Brown after the final signal. In almost any other situation, such a comparison would be rather strange.
▪ There were some tense moments during the final, but it’s really wild that all six games were decided by double figures.
▪ Tatum’s first NBA Finals was unforgettable, and it’s a pity that his last night of a mostly great season turned out to be one of his worst games for Celtic. On top of throwing 6 out of 18, at times he seemed lost and his confidence seemed shaken.
I remember one possession in the fourth quarter when he caught the ball in the left corner – an extremely high percentage of shots for him – then hesitated, drove to the rim and was clearly confused during the movement, one of his records in the NBA. 100 playoffs.
You could actually hear the fans yelling, “Shoot!” before he passed this corner three.
Tatum is the only one who can tell if fatigue was causing his slowdown. He definitely had a long year, from the Tokyo Olympics to leading the NBA in playoff minutes. But it’s hard to believe that this would be the point where wear and tear would finally become too much.
The final had two days of rest after four games, a virtual vacation compared to the rest of the season. Timeouts were longer, there were no overtimes, and all the uneven scores reduced the intensity of the typically tense and energetic late game moments.
Tatum’s 28.8 percent playoff usage rate was behind the likes of Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Stephen Curry.
Maybe Tatum just wasn’t ready for the biggest stage. But experience certainly helps.
▪ Playoff spectators were significantly larger at TD Garden than at any other venue. Oddly enough, it did not give an impetus. The Celtics finished the postseason 6-6 at home and 8-4 on the road. Meanwhile, the Warriors were leading 11-1 at home.
▪ If Celtics fans are looking for something to celebrate, check out Robert Williams’ highlights. The 24-year-old center hobbled through much of the playoffs due to lingering pain following March knee surgery, but he’s begun to resemble his usual rim-to-the-rim demeanor against the Warriors.
When he wasn’t hitting shots – he had 17 blocks in the series, averaging just over 26 minutes per game – he made Golden State players rethink their choices on the lane. The Celtics know what they have in Tatum and Brown, but Williams’ ceiling continues to rise and his development could be the single most important factor in the Celtics’ title quest.
▪ The Celtics’ bench probably needs a revamp, but the decline in playoff minutes doesn’t really indicate that coach Ima Udoki doesn’t trust his reserves. Star play time always increases when play matters the most. There is nothing unusual about this.
Derrick White, Payton Pritchard and Grant Williams had a great time in the playoffs. They just didn’t really shine during the Finals. Against Golden State, Williams had a net rating of minus 22.8 and White had a net rating of minus 18.7. Pritchard has been 0-for-7 from the field in his last three games.
▪ I’m a self-proclaimed chocolate chip cookie expert. Next time you’re in San Francisco, shop at Victoria’s Pastry on North Beach. I may or may not have stopped four times in the last few weeks. It’s the best I’ve ever had.
▪ When a team has several bad segments during a particular quarter, there is a tendency to analyze the obvious problems that arise during those segments. For example, for most of the Finals, the Celtics were losing in the third period, while Golden State dominated throughout the playoffs.
For the entire postseason, the Celtics led rivals by 12.8 points per 100 possessions in the second quarter, the best record in the NBA. They had a net rating of plus-9.4 in the fourth quarters and minus-6.0 in the third. Their first quarters were dead even.