Ex-Celtics Star on Game 7 Flop: ‘Everybody’s Not Built for These Moments’

Isaiah Thomas, fomer Celtics star, talks with Marcus Smart during the Eastern Conference finals.

Getty Isaiah Thomas, fomer Celtics star, talks with Marcus Smart during the Eastern Conference finals.

BOSTON — Isaiah Thomas leaned heavily on Jayson Tatum‘s diminished capacity to explain why the Celtics simply couldn’t stand the Heat in Game 7.

As one who loved the lights — he probably does a crossover and launches a 3 every time he opens the refrigerator door — Thomas is big on leading scorers, you know, leading.

But even the erstwhile King of the Fourth knew the Celts had deeper issues that were brought into greater relief by the 103-84 Eastern Conference finals exit interview Monday night.

He agreed that, no matter what’s happening with the ball, defense should always be present and proficient.

“It should,” Thomas told Heavy Sports, “but, you know, some teams, their positive energy and their good defense is dictated by how well they’re playing on offense — and obviously you can’t win a championship like that.

“So it was just tough, especially for a Game 7. It’s like, I think the effort was there, but their energy wasn’t, in terms of staying together. It looked like Miami was the closer-knit team. Whether Boston went on a run or not, they were just very collective and just stayed the course.”

Celtics Were a ‘Step Slow’

Quite simply, the Celtics’ failure illuminated the need to play with … uh, testicular fortitude.

“You got to, but everybody’s not built for these moments,” said Thomas. “So you got to tip your hat to the Miami Heat. They played a hell of a game, Game 7 on the road. And then with the Celtics not having their best player at full strength, that hurts. Nobody expected that. You expected Jayson Tatum to probably get 50 tonight, because he loves these moments.

“So it was tough for them to adjust on the fly. And I don’t think they got enough from everybody. Obviously Derrick White had a good game, but everybody else was a step slow.”

Jayson Tatum Injury Threw Celtics Off

Thomas showed up at TD Garden Monday fully expecting to see Tatum in concert, the front man at the microphone rocking the crowd. He’d done it himself back in 2016-17, averaging 28.9 points for the Celts in the regular season and throwing in 53 in Game 2 of the second round against Washington before a hip injury left him inactive for the last three games of the 4-1 conference finals loss to Cleveland (and less than himself in the first two).

“When Tatum went down the first play, that was like a tough blow,” Thomas said of Tatum badly twisting his left ankle on Monday’s first possession. “So your best player not being able to go full strength and give you everything he’s got in these moments, which he really excels in these moments… you could see it on his face. It was frustrating. You know, the Celtics are only going to go as far as he takes them, so it was a tough night. But that’s the playoffs. Other guys tried to step up; it just wasn’t enough.

“Defensively, I think it was hard with Tatum being out there. Especially as the game went along, Miami just started picking on him, because they saw he was hurting and couldn’t move.”

Added Thomas before leaving town, “It’s very disappointing, but I think Miami made the right adjustments on both ends of the floor and it made the Celtics a little timid. It made them think a little more, and I think that’s what they wanted to do to settle the crowd down a little bit. They kind of controlled the game the whole way.”

Much as he was hoping Tatum would.


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