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Celtics eliminated in Game 6 loss to Miami

Celtics eliminated in Game 6 loss to Miami

For all that has been made of the Celtics’ young stars, a young star from the other side sent them home for the season Sunday night.

Bam Adebayo, a relentless presence throughout the Eastern Conference finals, produced his best last night with 32 points (11-for-15 from the floor), 14 rebounds and five assists – certainly enough to hasten the Celtics’ 125-113 Game 6 loss.

The loss was the third conference finals elimination of the Brad Stevens era. The Celtics coach has yet to take the next step – a trip to the NBA Finals.

Defense, the Celtics’ version of the cavalry, appeared a little too late Sunday night. And even when they responded with their best ball pressure of the night early in the fourth quarter, Miami pushed through coverage with a game-flipping run.

Though four Celtics scored at least 20 points, led by Jaylen Brown’s 26, they were unable to get the requisite stops. That especially was true where Adebayo and his rolls to the rim were concerned. The Celtics also missed a plethora of open shots down the stretch, with players like Gordon Hayward (5-for-12) and Kemba Walker (5-for-15) missing open layups.

With the Celtics caught between his interior attack and the omnipresent threat of Miami’s shooters, the Heat put this one away with a 26-6 run in the fourth quarter that effectively squelched the Celtics’ season.

“Adebayo deciding he’s just going to drive the ball put us in a real bind with the shooters around him,” said Brad Stevens. “And their physicality is something that I’m not sure we probably talked about enough. But they’re strong, they’re physical, they’re tough, and him in particular dominated that fourth quarter. Even the plays where he didn’t score, his presence was so impactful.

“And it put us in a real bind with the ability to guard him. The best thing we did, the best stretch of defense we had all night – maybe the only good stretch of defense – was when we were switching with Grant (Williams). But that got taken and exposed a little bit as well there towards the end of it. So Miami deserves a lot of credit. They’re super physical, super tough, very, very savvy. And I think they’re the best team in the East and deserve to be representing the East the way that they’ve played.”

Sunday night’s weaknesses weren’t new. The Celtics had trouble with the multiple aspects of Miami’s attack throughout the series, and more often than not were unable to protect a lead.

Game 6 marked the sixth straight game where the Celtics led in the fourth quarter, this time by six points, before Tyler Herro’s 3-pointer stole momentum. And then the Heat really poured it on.

The 26-6 run included nine points from Adebayo and another 10 from Herro, the star of Game 4, in a return to haunt the Celtics one last time.

Walker, who signed with the Celtics two summers ago for this kind of a deep post-season run, was asked about regrets with how everything came to an end.

“Biggest regrets?” he asked. “Don’t have any, don’t have any. Lot of credit to Miami, those guys are really good, but I thought we fought hard. I’ve got a lot of respect for the guys I play with.”

The next hurdle – the NBA Finals – is more elusive than ever. Jayson Tatum, who has now played in two conference finals, noticed a significant difference this time around.

“My first year, wasn’t too many expectations,” he said of his coming out party in the 2018 playoffs. “We were young, people didn’t know what to expect, a couple guys was hurt. This year we had a lot of expectations. They’re a good team, I’ve got to give them credit. They played well this series. Unfortunately we couldn’t take advantage of a lot of the opportunities when we was up. It’s just unfortunate.”

The Celtics’ mental toughness will continue to be an issue – based on their inability to protect a fourth quarter lead and, last night, to not defend at a high level until it was too late, the “T” word will haunt them into next season.

“Nah. Nah, we don’t need to get tougher,” said Tatum. “I mean it’s just kind of unfortunate, some leads we gave up, some missed shots. Every game it was close. But get tougher? Nah, we don’t need to get tougher.”

Said Stevens: “I thought we did a lot of tough things too. Like, I thought our guys tried to play physical, I thought our guys tried that, but I think that ultimately it’s more of a credit to them. It’s nothing against our guys at all. They gave it everything they had. And, again, I think Miami’s been great. And we just, for whatever reason – and it was really a myriad of reasons if you look at the four or five close games – we just couldn’t solve them late.”

Not that he was thinking about it last night, but Tatum is eligible for a rookie-max extension: The Celtics naturally plan to lock their young star up for the long term with max money, but Tatum couldn’t quite go there last night.

“I’m not thinking about that right now. We just lost a series,” he said. “Just thinking about the guys in the locker room and the games. That’s what I’m thinking about. Stuff like that, going to happen — if it happens — not really my concern, I’m not even thinking about that. I’ll think about the great season we had, the great players, great job by everyone. It was a hell of a year and I enjoyed it. I appreciate everybody. This was fun. I’m not really thinking about the other stuff right now.”

Published at Mon, 28 Sep 2020 02:12:09 +0000