What does the future hold for the Celtics?

Celts

There must be changes.

Robert Williams (left) scored 10 points and Grant Williams had three in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

A scar will remain.

We know that much this morning, fresh from the wound of the Celtics’ six-game loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Only in the upcoming Celtics seasons will we know for sure if it’s the kind of scar that also serves as a mark of pride, a reminder of a hard but necessary lesson on the road to ultimate success.

Or maybe it will be the other kind of scar, a jagged and enduring what-if, a reminder of a moment gone wrong that will never be undone or avenged.

The Celtics’ exciting, grueling season ended Thursday night in a 103-90 loss to the Warriors – now four-time champions in the Steph Curry era.

The Warriors, who have won the last three games of the series, are as worthy as a champion can be. There’s no shame in falling for Curry, Klay Thompson, and yes, even loudmouth-who-supports-it Draymond Green. They are legends of their time and of all times.

It was fitting that the Celtics’ ultimate defeat served as a microcosm of their worst and best qualities, and doesn’t it always seem that way?

They were careless with basketball when they had it (22 turnovers, fell 0-8 in the playoffs when they committed at least 16) and failed to back up too often when they needed it (the Warriors garnered 15 offensive rebounds).

They managed 27 assists, but the usual bouts of my-turn, your-turn isolation ball that stagnated offense had to be endured as usual. Jaylen Brown scored a lot (34 points) but didn’t make anyone around him better, while Jayson Tatum (13 points) lost his bearings at the worst moment, which would be concerning if it wasn’t a rite of passage for so many NBA superstars. I think it’s fair to say that despite their great turnaround after an 18-21 start this season, the Celtics have never fully repaired their offensive shortcomings. They just let her go away for a while.

Yet they never gave up, not after seeing an early 14-2 lead slip away when the Warriors blew up a 21-0 run to bridge the first and second quarters…or when that settled to a 54: 39 lead extended… and not even as the admirable, annoying Curry stuck a long 3 to put the Warriors 72-50 with just over 6 minutes into the third quarter. (I’ll admit, that’s when I thought it was over. Admit it. You did, too.)

The Celtics’ defensive efforts never let up, and with a 44.1 second lead in the third quarter was a conventional 3-point play by 36-year-old Al Horford (19 points, 14 rebounds, 4 3-points, 1 block, 1 flex after ). the block) cut the Warriors’ lead to 9 (74-65), the first time it was in single digits since the middle of the second quarter.

The Warriors, too often assisted by a Celtic error, always had an answer and after one last gasp of a comeback attempt was stifled in the fourth quarter, Celtics coach Ime Udoka removed his starters with 1min, 3s left and his team 13. It was time because they ran out of time but it was hard to see them go.

If the ending hurt you, it’s because we know these are the losses that remain. Every time I watch Kendrick Perkins on ESPN or NBC Sports Boston, I always think of the knee injury that saved him from losing Game 7 to the Lakers in 2010. Hey, and did you see that Rasheed Wallace got coaching? Job on Darvin Ham’s Lakers team? If only he had been in better form that Game 7…

The Celtics’ participation in the Finals this year was their first since losing in 10, and how long it lasts – and how noticeable that new scar will be – depends on what comes next. Long term, the Celtics are in great shape. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have proven they can be top scorers in a competitive team and are entering their prime. The core of the team is signed. Robert Williams, who believes his knee is healthy, is still stepping up and Horford still insists on playing like he’s five years his junior.

Udoka is the ideal modern trainer to guide them. Gosh, how right did they get that attitude? I’m almost annoyed that he never got an opportunity before.

But there must be changes. Derrick White, Grant Williams and Payton Pritchard – the three core benchers – were downright somber late in the series. White’s brilliant Play 1 hitting five 3-pointers feels like it happened in a different time and place. The three of them were a combined 2 of 10 from the field and down 64 in Game 6.

An experienced shooter or wing to extend the bank for a more reliable option is required. Am I the only one who thinks Aaron Nesmith will turn out to be a useful contributor once the game slows down for him? I’m not sure if he’s the marksman he was touted for, but he defends like his laces are on fire.

It’s easy to overlook now, but this team has confirmed themselves along the way. They swept the abominable nets, dethroned Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Champions Bucks by coming back from a 3-2 deficit and won a Game 7 in Miami. So many satisfying memories will come to the fore in the coming weeks.

Unfortunately, at this moment all we can think about is how it ended and how close the Celtics came to fulfilling a championship dream. We’ve had no recollection of it for a dozen years, but it turns out it remains true: the deeper you go into the postseason, the more the ending hurts.

And the scar that results? It never fades But it’s up to those Celtics — those talented, maddening, devoted, annoying, resilient Celtics — whether it’s ultimately a reminder of a lesson learned on the road to greatness or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will never be presented again.

I think it’s the former. I just wish we didn’t have to find out that way.

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