1. It’s over.
No more games for the 2022 Boston Celtics.
It didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but it was one hell of a ride.
From wondering in 2021 and the early part of January of 2022 if this team would every figure it out to playing on June 16 in Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals.
If you can’t find some level of satisfaction in how far this team came, it’s probably time to reevaluate some things.
But today, it hurts. The Golden State Warriors are worthy champions, and they took it. Boston was right there, but they were also so far away.
In these Takeaways, we’ll cover some of what went wrong and some of what went right in the NBA Finals as a whole. Game 6 was a microcosm of the series as a whole, so we’ll take a wider lens approach in these final Takeaways of the 2022 season.
2. Turnovers. Whew boy, the turnovers.
Here are the Celtics turnovers by game:
· Game 1 – 13 for 10 Warriors points – Boston win
· Game 2 – 19 for 33 Warriors points – Golden State win
· Game 3 – 12 for 19 Warriors points – Boston win
· Game 4 – 16 for 19 Warriors points – Golden State win
· Game 5 – 18 for 22 Warriors points – Golden State win
· Game 6 – 23 for 20 Warriors points – Golden State win
The pattern is pretty clear. Boston ended up scoring under 100 points in all four of their losses. The defense basically held steady (more on that later), but the offense didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
Finals are won on the slimmest of margins. Yes, the Warriors are a terrific team, and they forced a lot of those turnovers. But by one unofficial count of the Celtics 101 turnovers in the Finals, roughly half were live-ball giveaways. And over 30 were unforced errors, where the ball was thrown directly to a stationary Golden State player, the Celtics committed an offensive foul (including several away from the ball) or Boston dribbled directly into a turnover (this one admittedly straddles the forced/unforced line).
It’s hard to beat a bad team giving the ball away at such a rate. Beating a good one is basically impossible.
3. This is specific to Game 6, but it happened a similar event happened a few times in the series as a whole: The Warriors runs become an avalanche.
Jayson Tatum hit a jumper with 2:53 to play in the first quarter to put the Celtics up 22-16.
Jaylen Brown hit a three-pointer with 9:59 to play in the second quarter to get Boston to down 37-25.
In that 4:54 stretch between Tatum’s jumper and Brown’s jumper, the Warriors outscored the Celtics 21-0.
The game wasn’t over-over, but it was functionally over. The Celtics never really got over the hump.
We won’t do a full play-by-play breakdown, because it’s exactly what you know it is. Turnovers, missed shots and some defensive breakdowns.
Basically: an avalanche.
4. Golden State occasionally crushed Boston on the glass in this series, but especially so in Games 4 and 6:
· Game 4 – 16 Warriors offensive rebounds for 19 second-chance points
· Game 6 – 15 Warriors offensive rebounds for 21 second-chance points
Those are brutally large numbers. Combine them with the turnovers and you have the Warriors getting up sometimes 15-to-20 more shots than the Celtics in games. Against a great team, especially one that thrives against non-set defenses, and those are margins you can’t overcome.
5. Right in the middle of the Takeaways is where we’re going to talk about the guy who is in the middle of everything good and bad for the Boston Celtics: Jayson Tatum.
By almost any measure, Tatum had a miserable NBA Finals. Here are the numbers:
· 21.5 PPG
· 36.7% field goal shooting
· 65.6% free throw shooting
Those are all way down from Tatum’s numbers during the regular season, and earlier in the playoffs.
The main culprit seemed to Tatum’s finishing at the rim. In the Finals, he drove more than ever at 15.3 drives per game. In the playoffs as a whole that number was 14.1 and in the regular season it was 11.4. So, Tatum was on the attack. The challenge? He couldn’t finish.
In the regular season, Tatum shot 48.8% on drives. In the playoffs overall he was at 38.3%. But that playoff number is dragged down by a horrible 31% in the Finals.
As has been well-reported, Tatum also became the first play in history to have 100 or more turnovers in a single postseason.
Maybe we’ll find out Jayson Tatum’s right shoulder was worse than he let on. Postgame he didn’t want to go there. He said he won’t need any kind of procedure, but that was an hour after his final game of the season. Who knows what the coming days will reveal?
It’s important that Tatum uses his very visible pain from this loss to come back better and determined. Everything we know about him says he will. As bad as these last six games were, they don’t erase how great the entirety of the 2021-22 season was for Jayson Tatum. He’s a superstar and the Celtics are lucky to have him.
6. We’ll keep this one short and sweet: What in the world happened to the Celtics bench in the Finals? Derrick White played a couple of good games before disappearing, but Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard apparently never left Miami.
By the end, Ime Udoka could only really trust the five starters, and they were running on fumes in Games 5 and 6. That, as much as anything else, contributed to a lot of the sloppy play.
This isn’t an offseason preview (that will come next week!), but Brad Stevens has to upgrade the reserves for Ime Udoka. Not necessarily replacing anyone, but adding to them. And Celtics ownership has to give Stevens the leeway to go deep into the tax to build a title-worthy bench.
7. On to some good stuff to close us out…
The Boston Celtics defense proved that their elite regular season could carry over to the playoffs. Even in the Final, against the vaunted Warriors, the defense wasn’t the problem. Boston held Golden State relatively in check all series long.
The Warriors found it particularly hard to score on the Celtics in the halfcourt. That’s true even if it seemed like Stephen Curry was doing his damage on pullup three after pullup three.
More than anything else, Ime Udoka and his staff succeeded in taking the good foundation Brad Stevens left him with the Celtics defense and turning them into a dominant defense. Given most of the same personnel is expected to be back, with possibly a couple of additions, that lockdown defense should be back in full force in 2022-23.
8. Jaylen Brown stepped up in the Finals. He wasn’t perfect by any means. He had his fair share of turnovers issues. But Brown played with passion and force throughout the Finals. He carried the Celtics for stretches and willed them back into some games. Had Boston won, Brown likely would have been the Finals MVP. Alas…
If Jayson Tatum is the Celtics #1 player, then Jaylen Brown is #1A.
Forever the Jays, shall we never speak of splitting them again.
9. A special shoutout here to Al Horford and Rob Williams. Both battled through everything to be there all the way until the end. Horford doing what he did at his age is remarkable. He’s as an important of a part as any in this turnaround. Boston is lucky to have him.
Williams is just a monster. Even on one leg, he dominated for stretches. There’s a future Defensive Player of the Year in there for Williams, assuming he can stay healthy. And the offensive game is coming along very rapidly now. His new contract hasn’t even started yet and Williams is already a steal on that deal.
10. That last Takeaway is always for what’s next…sigh.
No more games for the 2022 Celtics.
The 2022 NBA Draft is less than a week away, as it’s on Thursday, June 23. Boston traded their first-round pick for Derrick White, so they’ll be picking at #53 in the second round.
2022 free agency opens in under two weeks at 6:00 PM ET on Thursday, June 30.
We’ll cover it all here on CelticsBlog, including some offseason previews and look-ahead articles early next week.
Bonus and Thank You: 110 times (4 preseason games, 82 regular season games, 24 postseason games) we came to you in this space following a Celtics game. Twice, I didn’t write the Takeaways. Once, I had a pinch-hitter because I wasn’t feeling well. Once, I wrote about the passing of my beloved Golden Retriever Matty.
I desperately wanted to write one more set of the Takeaways for you. I wanted a Game 111 so badly.
It wasn’t meant to be.
But now it’s time for me to say thank you to you, Dear Reader. To share my gratitude for your support of everything we do here at CelticsBlog.
Jeff and Bill run this place with the exact opposite of an iron fist. It’s always about the writers and life first and the blog second. I can tell you this with all certainty, because I’m not always the easiest to work with. Yet, Jeff and Bill keep me going. Day after day, week after week. They’re the best.
Our team here is immensely talented and incredibly passionate. Our CelticsBlog Slack is like a virtual family dinner table. There’s squabbling, fighting, name-calling and pettiness. But there are also a lot of laughs and lot of great idea-sharing. More importantly, there’s a lot of love. For the Celtics and for each other.
I hope that over 100 times, you’ve felt that love through this virtual ink here in the Takeaways. We’re always here, good and bad.
It’s all for you Dear Reader, otherwise they are just more words that might as well be invisible in the vast internet.
I see the same names in the comments after each version of the Takeaways posts. Sometimes you agree, sometimes you don’t. But I love reading all of them.
You make me a better writer because you challenge me. You make me think about things through a different point of view on a very regular basis. Multiple times, even after two full watches of every game, I’ve gone back and seen something I missed that you pointed out.
It’s truly an honor to write for you here on CelticsBlog and I’m forever grateful that you’ve given me and my words so much support.
See you soon and Go Celtics!