In their first matchup since Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals, the Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors faced off last night at the Chase Center in San Francisco. What ensued was an underwhelming effort from the Celtics as they fell to the Warriors, 123-107.
The only takeaway from the Celtics last night was it was the first night they did not feel like themselves. The first time it just felt like they weren't doing what they do. Warriors defense was locked in but the pace/tempo/movement didn't feel the same.— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) December 11, 2022
Boston seemed out of sorts, and it felt like the weight of the moment got to them. With all of the things they’ve done well this season seemingly forgotten, the loss gave flashbacks of their Finals collapse, and all of those old ghosts came to life. Most notably, Jayson Tatum struggled under the Warriors defense, as they continued to throw bodies and double coverage at him as soon as the ball touched his hands; there were barely any moments where the MVP candidate looked comfortable on the offensive end. Tatum finished the night with 18 points on 6-of-21 shooting, 2-of-9 from deep, 7 rebounds, a pair of assists and turnovers, three steals and a block.
"There's nobody to blame but myself. I have to be better"— Celtics on NBC Sports Boston (@NBCSCeltics) December 11, 2022
Jayson Tatum on his performance tonight vs. Golden State pic.twitter.com/o286OTnAo9
Despite the loss, the Celtics have remained grounded in the moment and not let down games deter them, and rightfully so. The team is still 21-6 on the season, with the best record in the NBA, and have done so without their defensive cornerstone Robert Williams. A loss like last night is not indicative of the team’s progress or growth since last season, nor would a win have meant they’re a shoe-in to win the NBA Finals. Much like basketball being a game of runs, the NBA season is a marathon and Boston isn’t even at the halfway point. To make bold claims on either side of the fence is half-baked at best.
“I think they really locked in on him, making it hard for him,” said Malcolm Brogdon on how Golden State defended teammate Jayson Tatum. “But I thought he missed shots that he makes 95% of the time. He’ll make them next game, and when we play (the Warriors) again, he’s gonna make those shots. We don’t lose trust in him. He’s going to be our guy regardless.” Much like any other Celtics season, this team will go as far as their stars can bring them; the locker room realizes this, and they’re not about to lose focus or faith over a bump in the road.
When asked about what Tatum has to do better, Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla came to the defense of his star player and took ownership. ““He doesn’t have to do anything better, we (coaching staff) have to be better,” said Mazzulla. “We’ve got to put him in better spots in certain moments of the game, feel the game and get him to a spot to where he can make a play for our team.”
“I missed a lot of a lot of layups,” said Tatum of his sub-par game amidst an MVP season. “Got two fouls in the first quarter, missed some open threes. They’re a good team, we obviously we got some history with them. They’ve been playing better as of lately, and that well-balanced, talented team on both ends, they make it tough on you. I think I just...maybe my touch was off, but just a lot of easy ones I missed made it a little tough tonight.”
There are lessons to be learned from the game, and in the public eye, the loss is going to hold weight simply because it was against the Warriors. “Tonight was probably more meaningful to you guys than it was to us,” said Tatum on the loss. “It’s one game. We want to win every game we play for sure, but it’s tough. We never want to lose, we’ve been playing well, and to lose this one, especially with the way we played, is tough. But it’s not going to dictate our season... it’s all about how we respond.”
For what it’s worth, Tatum is right. This kind of loss can be frustrating, there are things for sure to be upset about, but it ultimately is what it is. It’s a number in a column, another line to be tallied, another opportunity to learn and grow. It doesn’t have to be anything more to this Celtics team, and the best thing they can do is keep their faith in the face of the franchise.
The Celtics will have a chance to get on the right track on Monday with a matchup against the Clippers, 10:30 pm EST tipoff.