Joe Mazzulla and the Boston Celtics’ season came to an end Monday night, just 48 hours after a thrilling comeback on the Miami Heat’s home floor in Game 6. The Celtics trailed the Eastern Conference Finals three games to none, and had rattled off three straight wins to force a seventh game in the series.
However, Boston fell on its home floor for the seventh time this postseason, and was eliminated from the playoffs. 103-84 was the final score.
“We just couldn’t score,” Mazzulla said after the game.
Mazzulla, named interim head coach in the summer, took over a Boston team that went to the NBA Finals last year. Mazzulla had the interim tag removed from his title in February, and was a finalist for NBA Coach of the Year.
Boston’s chances to pull off a historic comeback in this series changed dramatically in the opening moments of the game Monday night. Celtics start Jayson Tatum suffered an ankle injury while being fouled less than 30 seconds into Game 7. Tatum played 42 minutes and finished with a double-double of 14 points and 11 rebounds. However, he was impacted heavily by the injury.
“Nothing [changed]. I thought he just tried to play through it as best as he could,” Mazzulla added.
Jaylen Brown, Mazzulla’s second-best player, scored 19 points but committed eight turnovers and shot just 8 for 23 from the floor.
Miami led 52-41 entering halftime, and led by as many as 15 points in the third quarter. Boston mounted a comeback attempt, pulling back to within seven on a pair of free throws by Tatum with 52 seconds left in the period. The fourth quarter was all Miami.
The Heat took as large as a 23-point lead in the final period, en route to becoming just the second eight-seed in NBA history to make it to the NBA Finals.
Mazzulla, 34, is the youngest head coach in the Association. He finished his first regular season as an NBA head coach with the second-best record in the league, and then won a pair of playoff series.
“This is one of the best locker rooms I’ve been a part of,” Mazzulla said. “The guys cared. They gave it everything they had. That’s the most important thing to take from this. Obviously, we didn’t achieve our goal, we didn’t win, which was our goal.”