After good rise, Tatum, Celtics fall flat late in NBA Finals

BOSTON (AP) — As Jayson Tatum made back-to-back baskets to cap a player-opening Boston blitz, TD Garden was the loudest.

It sure got quiet in a hurry.

So does Tatum.

After climbing back to the top of the Eastern Conference, the Celtics fell flat in the latter stages of the NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors won their last three games and claimed the title with a 103-90 win in Game 6 on Thursday night.

It was the first three-game sled for the Celtics since December, when they were a faltering under-.500 team that looked like nothing like a contender.

Instead, they became one of the best teams in the league, in part because of the brilliance of Tatum, who was voted First-Team All-NBA for the first time.

But he finished Game 6 with just 13 points in 6-for-18 shooting, with just one shot in the second half.

Tatum was strong early on, with the last five points in the opening 14-2 run. He added a third basket in the first quarter to give the Celtics a 22-16 lead, but those were their final points before being overwhelmed by an avalanche of 21 straight Golden State points.

That made it 37-22 early in the second quarter and left Celtics fans in a stunned silence – which was broken later in the quarter when they even booed the home team.

The Celtics kept fighting and getting the fans back in the game but never got particularly close in the second half, due in part to Tatum’s passivity and ineffectiveness. Some fans yelled at him to get the ball, but even when he did, it just didn’t work out on the track.

He had blocked a shot midway through the fourth after the Celtics climbed all the way back into single digits. He was then called to travel with 3:55 to go as they ran out of chances and ran out of time to make mistakes.

The Celtics’ problems extended beyond Tatum. Sometimes too many turnovers, sometimes too many bad executions. They were outplayed 57-39 in the fourth quarter of Games 4 and 5, perhaps tired from a long playoff run.

It took them seven games to beat Milwaukee in the second round and seven more to get past Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals. This was their first time since 2010 in the NBA Finals.

But the 18th banner that would put them back at the top of the league will have to wait.

Tatum and the Celtics might be better next time. They just weren’t good enough now.


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