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BOSTON — When Jayson Tatum twisted his ankle on the first play of Game 7, it was clear the injury was going to slow him down. But with the Celtics’ backs against the wall against the Heat, they needed to find production elsewhere. That’s where Jaylen Brown comes in.
Brown, who was named second-team All-NBA this season, was the natural next man up. But as the 3-pointers didn’t go down for the Celtics, Brown also couldn’t rise to the occasion. He finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists, but he shot just 8-for-23 from the field. And importantly, Brown committed a nightmare eight turnovers. He took responsibility for his shortcomings after the Game 7 loss to end their season.
“Just a terrible game,” Brown said. “When my team needed me most, like JT hurt his ankle, first play of the game, and you could see it like swelling up on him. He couldn’t move out there. It was tough for him. My team turned to me to make plays, and I came up short. I failed. It’s tough. I give credit to Miami, but just a terrible job.”
It was a forgettable East Finals for Brown as similar struggles resurfaced this season. The turnovers were a consistent issue as Brown had the ball taken from him by the Heat consistently. His numbers dipped as he averaged 19.0 points and 3.6 turnovers, including shooting just 16.3% on 3-pointers.
There will be some frustrations going forward as Brown enters a crucial offseason. The Celtics can offer him a supermax contract extension after he was named All-NBA, which is something the front office must address this summer. Brown didn’t talk much about any extension talk, though, so quickly after the loss.
Regardless, the sting of defeat will linger for the Celtics and Brown. They fell behind 3-0 to the Heat, and while they did come back to make it 3-3, their margin for error disappeared. While the C’s were on the cusp of history, instead, they became just the latest team to fail to overcome such a series deficit. And now they’ll enter the offseason as the Celtics are left wondering what they can do to get over the championship hump.
“You take it on the chin,” Brown said. “You learn from it. As hard as this one is right now to swallow, you get better. It’s a tough one. Tough one. Tough one for me. Tough one for our team. Tough one for our organization. Extremely bad timing. You learn. That’s a 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.”