BOSTON – After a miraculous buzzer-beater in Game 6, the Boston Celtics had a chance to make NBA history on their home turf on Monday night.
But they didn’t.
“We failed. I failed. We let the whole city down,” said Jaylen Brown.
The Celtics went down 0-3 to the Miami Heat but ripped off three-straight wins after that, forcing a Game 7 at home. TD Garden was buzzing from the jump, but on the first play of the game, the entire course of the night was changed.
Jayson Tatum went down with an ankle injury. And while he did his best to play through it, he was clearly not himself for the remainder of the contest.
In turn, the burden was placed on Brown to carry the Celtics’ offense.
“He couldn’t move out there. It was tough for him,” Brown said of Tatum. “And my team turned to me to make plays and etcetera, and I came up short. I failed. And it’s tough. I give credit to Miami, but just a terrible job.”
Brown fought back his emotions post-game while breaking down his performance. His entire press conference was filled with long pauses, deep breaths, and the desperate need to fight back tears.
The 26-year-old star was named to his first All-NBA team this year, earning All-Star honors as well. But in the Eastern Conference Finals, he shot just 16.3% from distance, and in a pivotal Game 7, he recorded a career-high eight turnovers.
Everything that could have gone wrong did for Brown and the Celtics, as Miami cruised to a 103-84 victory and their second NBA Finals appearance in four years.
Now, heading into the offseason, the focus will shift to Brown’s potential contract extension, as his All-NBA distinction makes him eligible for a supermax deal. But Brown hasn’t even begun to think about the future yet.
“I expected to win today and move on. That’s what my focus was on,” Brown said when asked about this summer. “That’s what my focus has been on. We failed. I failed. And it’s hard to think about anything else right now, to be honest. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
During their time together, Tatum and Brown have reached the Eastern Conference Finals in four of six years, including a Finals berth last season. They’ve been competing at the highest level for six years and are still just 25 and 26 years old.
That being said, there comes a time when every championship-caliber core ceases to exist or, at the very least, makes major adjustments. Brad Stevens will have some tough decisions to make this offseason in that regard, but Tatum wants Brown to be a part of them.
“It’s extremely important,” Tatum said of Boston re-signing Brown long-term. “He’s one of the best players in this league. Plays both ends of the ball and [is] still relatively young. And he’s accomplished a lot so far in his career. So, I think it’s extremely important.”
Meanwhile, Brown was too heartbroken to form a cohesive thought about his extension.
He was asked about his thought process surrounding a potential deal this offseason but paused for nearly a minute before responding.
“I don’t even really know how to answer that question right now, to be honest,” said Brown. “My thought process is to take it one day at a time. Focus on getting better. Focus on what the future holds and see where we are from there, I guess. I don’t really know how to answer that.”
Sitting in stunned silence, Brown attempted to ponder his Celtics future, but it was clear his brutal night was still doing laps around his head.
On the biggest stage with the brightest lights shining down, Brown was presented with an opportunity to step up. Not only that, but his team needed him. Their season depended on it. But he simply fell flat.
And now, there’s nothing left to do but move forward.
“You take it on the chin. You learn from it,” said Brown. “As hard as this one is to swallow, you get better. Tough one. Tough one. Tough one for me. Tough one for our team. Tough one for our organization. Extremely bad timing. You just learn. And it’s part of the journey. This is not the end. We got a lot better to get. A lot of better basketball to play. And you just got to look at it like that. But tough night.”