This series went about as well as we thought it would. The Boston Celtics looked completely undermanned and overmatched in their first round matchup with the Brooklyn Nets, and the difference between a team that underachieved and one gunning for a title was clear from the opening tip of Game 1. Though Boston managed to snag one game, the Nets finished off the appetizer of their playoff run Tuesday night in Brooklyn, 123-109. Jayson Tatum led the way for Boston with 32 points while James Harden countered with a 34-10-10 triple double for Brooklyn.
With Kemba Walker and Rob Williams once again out with injuries, Boston was once again shorthanded, this time with their season on the line. However, it felt like they came out and gave their best punch, even though it was a weak one. With Brooklyn struggling to make shots out of the gate, the C’s needed to capitalize and build an early lead. They jumped out 8-2 in the early going, but that was not anywhere near enough against a superteam with the offensive power that the Nets possess. Tyler Johnson made a three-pointer with 2:41 left in the opening quarter to give the Nets a 22-21 lead and they never trailed from there.
Though Boston managed to keep the game close, they were also never able to get over the hump to tie things up. Every time they made a little run, one of Brooklyn’s three-headed monster answered the call and shut them down. It was a sobering reminder, as was much of the rest of the series, of just how far the C’s are from being a true title contender. Offense like this is just unstoppable:
What really doomed the Celtics in this game was their shooting. Yes, to keep up with Brooklyn’s high powered offense Boston was always going to have to rely on the three-ball, but going 11-40 isn’t going to get the job done. At some point, it’s better to just try to get something a little easier that’s closer to the rim, because the outside shot just isn’t falling. Marcus Smart and Evan Fournier were a combined 2-15 on threes in Game 5, with nine of those misses coming from Smart. For a player that’s been in the league as long as he has, his lack of game sense in regards to when he needs to just stop shooting is head-scratching at best. He seems perfectly content to just keep chucking bricks at the backboard while the C’s slip further and further behind, and it’s infuriating to watch because it doesn’t seem like anyone is telling him to stop.
This series was basically a stomp from start to finish. The only game that Boston managed to steal took a superhuman 50-point game from Jayson Tatum, who was the only Celtics player that had a good series. He averaged 30.6 points per game for the series, while his next closest teammate, Marcus Smart, was well behind at 17.8 points. That’s a huge gap. In the entire series, only one player other than Tatum reached 20 points for Boston, with Smart scoring 23 in game 3. You just can’t win like that, no matter how amazingly Tatum played. He had no help from start to finish, and the Celtics didn’t play enough defense to grind out wins on Tatum’s shoulders.
This is a huge offseason for the Celtics. Yes, the Celtics struggled big time with health this season, with almost every key rotation player missing at least one chunk of the season, if not more. However, even when fully healthy, no matter how brief a window it was, this team never clicked. Moves have to be made, and hopefully Danny Ainge is willing to make them. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are the building blocks. Robert Williams is the starting center of the future (if he can ever stay healthy). Beyond those three, everybody else is movable to change the direction of this team. Whether it’s packaging a few players and picks to go out and get an upset star looking to change teams, or moving up in the draft to get an actual impact player, something has to change. Ainge has no excuse to not make any big moves, as this offseason will likely play a huge role in determining exactly what the future holds for the Boston Celtics.
While it’s easy to get down about this postseason result, the future is still plenty bright in Boston. Few teams can even stake a claim to having a better, younger duo than Boston has in Brown and Tatum, but that’s not enough to win, as this season clearly showed. The rest of the roster has to complement them, something that this group never did. This was an expected end to a disappointing season, but one that hopefully will bring about the needed changes in Boston.