Emptying my notebook after the Celtics’ wild playoff run ended with an NBA Finals loss to the Warriors …
▪ There’s not a ton of space in the bowels of TD Garden. The locker rooms are separated by about 20 feet, and there’s traffic in the shared hallways. That led to some awkward interactions in the afterglow of the Warriors’ championship.
You could hear — and smell — Golden State’s celebration just about everywhere. Jayson Tatum had to wade through some of the Warriors’ traveling party after wrapping up his postgame press conference, and Draymond Green even recorded an episode of his podcast in Boston’s interview room.
About two hours after Game 6, I walked past Golden State’s locker room and saw the remnants of the brief but raucous party. There were empty bottles everywhere, with Modelo and Moet the obvious drinks of choice.
▪ Say what you want about Green, but the man is an elite troll. TD Garden fans at Game 4 received white T-shirts that showed all 17 of Boston’s championship banners, with an empty slot for No. 18. Green got his hands on one, and after the Game 6 win, he or an accomplice used a black marker to write “Warriors” atop the empty banner, and “Nope!! Maybe in 23,” inside of it. Then he wore the shirt on the flight home.
▪ These teams face each other just twice each regular season, and one Finals matchup isn’t enough to spark a true rivalry. But thanks to some of the petty battles — mostly involving Green — the seeds are certainly there. Some already have suggested that this rematch should be featured on Christmas Day next season. But as long as Kyrie Irving remains in Brooklyn — which is no certainty — it should be Celtics vs. Nets and Warriors vs. Grizzlies.
▪ But if you just can’t wait until next year for a chance at revenge, the Celtics and Warriors will meet in the Las Vegas summer league July 12 at 8 p.m. Can you feel the excitement?
▪ Former Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told me more than a month ago that he was going to be back in Boston to attend the US Open at The Country Club in Brookline. So it was not a surprise that he was at TD Garden last Thursday.
Ainge guided this franchise for 18 years before retiring last summer and eventually resurfacing as the CEO and alternate governor of the Jazz. His son, Austin, is still a Celtics assistant general manager, and he remains quite close to just about everyone within the franchise.
So, somehow, it didn’t seem out of place to see Ainge, who holds a top job with another NBA team, walking through the tunnel with Tatum and Jaylen Brown after the final buzzer. In just about any other situation, that juxtaposition would have been quite odd.
▪ There were some tense moments during the Finals, but it’s truly wild that all six games were decided by double digits.
▪ Tatum’s first NBA Finals were forgettable, and it’s too bad that his last night of a mostly excellent season ended up being one of his worst as a Celtic. In addition to his 6-for-18 shooting, he just appeared lost at times, and his confidence seemed rattled.
I’ll remember one fourth-quarter possession when he caught the ball in the left corner — an extremely high-percentage shot for him — then hesitated, drove to the rim, and was clearly discombobulated as he traveled, one of his NBA-record 100 playoff turnovers.
You could actually hear fans yelling “Shoot it!” before he passed up that corner three.
Tatum is the only one who can say whether fatigue factored into his slowdown. He certainly had a long year, from the Tokyo Olympics to leading the NBA in playoff minutes. But it’s hard to believe that this would be the point that the wear and tear finally became too much.
In the Finals, there were two days of rest after four of the games, a virtual vacation compared with the rest of the season. The timeouts were longer, there were no overtimes, and all of the lopsided scores reduced the intensity of typically high-stress, high-energy late-game moments.
Tatum’s usage rate of 28.8 percent in the playoffs was behind players such as Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Stephen Curry.
Maybe Tatum just wasn’t quite ready for the biggest stage. But the experience certainly will help.
▪ The playoff crowds at TD Garden were considerably rowdier than those in any opposing venue. Oddly, it didn’t seem to provide a boost. The Celtics finished the postseason just 6-6 at home and 8-4 on the road. The Warriors, meanwhile, were 11-1 at home.
▪ If Celtics fans are looking for something to feel good about, go watch some Robert Williams highlights. The 24-year-old center was hobbled for much of the playoffs with lingering soreness from his March knee surgery, but he started to resemble his usual above-the-rim self against the Warriors.
When he wasn’t swatting away shots — he had 17 blocks in the series while averaging just more than 26 minutes per game — he was making Golden State players rethink their choices in the lane. The Celtics know what they have in Tatum and Brown, but Williams’s ceiling continues to rise and his development could be the most important factor in the Celtics’ pursuit of a title.
▪ The Celtics bench probably could use an upgrade, but its decrease in playoff minutes wasn’t really an indication of coach Ime Udoka’s lack of trust in his reserves. The playing time of stars is always ramped up when games matter most. This isn’t unusual.
Derrick White, Payton Pritchard, and Grant Williams all had excellent moments during the playoffs. They just did not really shine during the Finals. Against Golden State, Williams had a minus-22.8 net rating and White was minus-18.7. Pritchard was 0 for 7 from the field over the final three games.
▪ I’m a self-proclaimed chocolate chip cookie expert. Next time you’re in San Francisco, get one from Victoria’s Pastry in North Beach. I may or may not have stopped by four times over the last few weeks. It’s the best I’ve ever had.
▪ When a team has a few bad stretches during a specific quarter, there is a tendency to dissect apparent issues that arise during those segments. For much of the Finals, for example, the Celtics were walloped in the third period, a stretch that Golden State dominated throughout the playoffs.
For the entire postseason, the Celtics outscored opponents by 12.8 points per 100 possessions in second quarters, the best mark in the NBA. They had a plus-9.4 net rating in fourth quarters and minus-6.0 in thirds. Their first quarters were dead even.