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The business remains unfinished: 1 Takeaway from Celtics-Heat Game 3

Boston’s season is on the brink after falling behind 0-3.

NBA: Playoffs-Boston Celtics at Miami Heat Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

1. I’ve got nothing left.

I don’t know what to tell you, beyond the truth. The idea of breaking down this game, like I have for 102 games before it, just isn’t resonating today.

The Boston Celtics basically fell apart in a moment when they needed to be more together than ever. Almost all of our worst fears about this particular Celtics team were realized in one game. Really, in three quarters.

Boston couldn’t make a shot. They didn’t defend. The rebounding was there, but that was more because the Miami Heat rarely missed and the Celtics missed plenty.

There aren’t any silver linings in this version of the Takeaways, because there aren’t any silver linings left.

If you want to hold out hope that history is going to be made, no one should hold that against you. Hope is a good thing. We should all be more hopeful that something great might happen, rather than resigned that something bad will happen.

If you want to be angry today, no one should hold that against you either. This is a major disappointment at the very least, and a complete and utter failure at the most. Anger is a completely fair reaction.

If you want to try and turn the corner to start thinking about what’s next for the Celtics, no one should hold that against you either. We aren’t going to do that here today, because it looks like we’ll have a month or more to talk about all of that. But if you want to, or need to, because you’re already ready to move on, have at it.

Essentially, there’s no one way to feel about the Celtics right now. I try not to make the Takeaways about me, but I’ve run the gamut since pretty early on in the third quarter of Game 3.

Angry? Check.

Disappointed? Check.

Confused? Check.

Discouraged? Check.

Relieved? Also check.

As you probably know by now, my run covering the team here on CelticsBlog will end after the season ends. That’s sad and worrisome for me, and I’ll write more about it when it happens.

Yet, I find myself somewhat relieved that the end is near. Not relieved to not have to write about this team anymore, or be a part of the CelticsBlog team. Not even a little bit.

It’s mostly relief that this season will be over.

This has been the most draining season of coverage that I’ve had. Now, no one should even remotely begin to care or shed any tears. Doing this for a living is still the best job I’ve ever had, by miles and miles. And I liked the other jobs I’ve had!

But this season has felt joyless.

In the beginning, when the Celtics were stomping teams and scoring at a historic pace, there was a sense of satisfaction. But satisfaction is different than joy. It was more of a smug satisfaction of “Yeah, we’re the best.” It felt more like validation than celebration.

Boy, was that misplaced.

Not in the moment. In that particular moment, Boston was laying waste to the NBA. It looked like they were playing a different game from everyone else. Then it all went sideways.

All season long, the Celtics rally cry/motto/mantra has been “Unfinished Business” with the “is” in Unfinished styled to look like an 18. The message was clear. After falling short in the 2022 NBA Finals, Boston was going to do everything to raise Banner 18.

Much like the house you thought you could flip, because every HGTV show makes it look easy, it looks like that business will remain unfinished.

Just like with those house flips, there isn’t one simple, fixable problem. There are a lot of them, and they all seem like they popped up all at once. Even when we knew there were underlying issues, we chose to ignore them because those shiny additions and fresh paint felt like enough. But you can’t paper over the broken stuff. It doesn’t get fixed that way.

And that’s where it feels like the Celtics are now: broken.

There’s no easy fix here. They aren’t a gutless and heartless bunch, as some are claiming. They came back from down 3-2 in each of the last two years to win huge games. They went on the road and won a Game 7 in this same spot a year ago. They are resilient. They do fight.

But eventually, that kind of wears out. Having to constantly punch your way off the ropes takes a lot out of you. Those quick jabs, which have so often led to combinations, followed by a knockout punch, just aren’t there anymore. There’s no power and force left. The Celtics are hoping to stay on their feet until the bell rings. The Heat are looking for the knockout. And they don’t want a TKO, either. They want to drop Boston hard to the mat and celebrate.

Now, we sit here waiting for that one last punch to come. Sometimes you can see it coming with a big windup. Other times it’s the series of jabs that gets you and you find yourself on the mat wondering how you even got there.

It’s been months of this now. At their best, the Celtics looked unbeatable. Any team beating these guys four times in seven games seemed like an impossible task.

Other times, Boston looked very beatable. And that happened after the first couple of months of the season. The effort wasn’t always there. The shots didn’t always fall.

But we still believed. They made us believers a year ago. And when they looked good, boy did they look good.

Maybe history still happens. Eventually, someone is going to come back from down 0-3. It will happen.

It just doesn’t seem like it will happen with the Celtics team.

Maybe “Unfinished Business” was the wrong tagline for this group. Boston treated this season like it was a business all year long. Almost all of us have been at a point with our jobs where it just feels like a job. It’s just business. And when you feel like that, you just go through the motions sometimes. The monotony begets the lack of joy and that becomes the routine. Sure, there will be those good days. The random “Let’s all pack it in and head home early” day. Or the “Lunch is on us today” afternoon. Or, every once and a while, the “We’re doing a teambuilding day. No work today.”

But those days are sparse. And they aren’t enough to get you through year after year. They are momentary, fleeting instances of fun inside an ever-present sense of “It is what it is.”

For this year’s Celtics, it is what it is. There were moments of pure joy. But they were overwhelmed by the moments of “We just gotta finish the job.” Finishing that business was the only way this season would bring joy. The moments were no longer enough.

The business will remain unfinished, because there is only one way to finish that business. And that isn’t going to happen this season.

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