The Celtics season has come to an end following a lopsided 103-84 loss to the Miami Heat in a winner-take-all Game 7 Monday night at TD Garden.
Jimmy Butler, who won Eastern Conference Finals MVP, led all scorers with 28 points on 12-of-28 from the field, to go along with seven rebounds, six assists and three steals. Caleb Martin recorded 26 points, 10 rebounds, while Bam Adebayo added 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for Miami after bouncing back from losing three straight to eliminate the Celtics for the second time in four seasons.
"We stayed together as a group. As a team, we talked about going and getting a tough one on the road. We did just that," Butler said in his postgame presser. "But we're not satisfied. We're excited. We're happy. But we've got one more to get."
It was exactly a year ago when the Heat lost to Boston on their home floor in the seventh deciding game of the East Finals, and this time around they nearly became the first team in NBA history to blew a 3-0 series lead, but secured the victory in a do-or-die situation to achieve being only the second eighth seed to make it to the NBA Finals.
"Sometimes you have to suffer for the things that you really want," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said to reporters. "This group has shown fortitude, when there are inevitable letdowns and failures, to have that perseverance to pick yourself up, to have that collective spirit to keep on forging ahead until you get to accomplish what you want to."
Meanwhile, Game 6 hero Derrick White finished with 18 points, while Jaylen Brown (eight rebounds, five assists) netted 19 points on 8-of-23 shooting, including going 1-of-9 from 3-point range and coughing up the ball eight times in the C's sixth elimination game this postseason.
Jayson Tatum, who rolled his ankle on the very first play of the game, chipped in 14 points on 5-of-13 from the floor, 11 rebounds and four assists, but could visibly be seen wincing and limping throughout his 42 minutes of action.
The Celtics are the 151st team to attempt a comeback from a 3-0 series comeback only to be the fourth to force a Game 7 in league history to not complete the rally.
"When we were down 3-0, the thing was: How do we want to be defined?" said Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla following the season-ending loss. "I thought they showed a lot of character by even getting to this point."
Boston took a five-point lead to open the game, before the Heat used a 14-4 run to end the first quarter and stay ahead for good.
Miami continued to pour it on, outscoring the home-team 16-6 to start the second and eventually take a 52-41 advantage into the break. The Celtics never got within eight in the third period and trailed 76-66 going into the final frame.
Tatum blew a layup and Brown followed it up with back-to-back turnovers on ensuing possessions in the first 1:10 of the fourth quarter, while the Heat scored seven answered points on their way to a 20-7 run and a 23-point margin -- the largest of the night to put away the Celtics, who never got closer than 15 in the final 5:33.
"We failed. I failed and we let the whole city down," Brown said in his postgame comments. "In spite of whatever circumstance we had this year we rose to the occasion. We got to this point and we came up short."
Despite a sold-out TD Garden crowd, which included champions Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo, they went through a rollercoaster of emotions from extremely loud, silent and even boos at times to a polite applause late (for those who didn't leave early). In the end the Heat were able to win three-of-four in Boston to advance and leave Celtics with questions to ask during a long summer of potential decisions to make.
The Celtics were 39% from the field, including 9-of-42 (21.4%) from 3-point territory, while Miami was 48.8% from the floor and 14-of-28 (50%) from long distance. Boston was out-rebounded 42-40, but won the points in the paint battle 42-38. The C's dished out only 18 assists (15 turnovers) on 32 baskets and the Heat had 26 dimes (14 turnovers) on 42 made shots.
Photo used courtesy of The Boston Globe
Photo used courtesy of The Boston Globe