Miami ‘s Jimmy Butler dunks over the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown during the second half in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals Monday at TD Garden in Boston. The Heat won, 103-84, to advance to the NBA Finals. Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

BOSTON — With the Boston Celtics attempting a comeback and Game 6 hero Derrick White at the free throw line in the third quarter doing his best to keep the Green in the game, the fans at TD Garden started to chant: “MVP! MVP!”

That type of chorus is usually reserved for Jayson Tatum. Only, the fans didn’t bring it out for him. Or Jaylen Brown for that matter.

White, the hero in Game 6, was basically forced into trying to bring the team back from a double-digit deficit as the two Celtics stars, the duo who are supposed to make it happen on such occasions, were struggling mightily.

It was White who kept the Celtics in it for a time, not the top guns. For different reasons, Tatum and Brown flopped in the 103-84 Game 7 loss to the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.

Miami’s stars?

Jimmy Butler delivered, as promised, with a game-high 28 points. And while Bam Adebayo didn’t do much, Caleb Martin was an assassin from 3-point land. He hit on 4 of 6 from distance, throwing in a ton of daggers every time the Celtics got close, and finished with 26 points.


That kind of effort and production is what was expected from Tatum and Brown. It was something the team desperately needed one win away from the NBA Finals. Only it didn’t happen in part because Tatum suffered an ankle injury on the Celtics very first possession.

The Celtics have certainly won before when one of the two doesn’t produce. But Brown just couldn’t pick up the slack. And he was miserable over that fact.

“Just a terrible game. 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,” Brown said. “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.”

Brown was bad all around. Bad from three (1 for 9), and bad from everywhere (8 for 23). Add in a whopping eight turnovers, and he was the Heat’s best friend.

It was Brown who said the Celtics had been to hell and back in the series, coming back from 0-3 to force a deciding seventh game, with the winner going to the NBA Finals.

Welcome back to hell.


While the Celtics collectively are in misery after not finishing business, Tatum and Brown are going to feel the brunt of the slings and arrows for this epic fail.

They’ve run hot and cold in one too many big games either individually, or in this case, together over the course of the postseason as a whole.

It should make the Celtics take pause, before running the tab up to $600 million for both Tatum and Brown on supermax contracts. The Celtics brain trust is going to have to think long and hard when it comes to Brown, who is up for joining Tatum in that elite earner’s circle.

Their respective stat lines were ugly, and that’s putting it kindly.

The injured Tatum, who has historically delivered in Game 7s, scored 14 points. He was 5 for 13 from the field, 1 for 4 from 3-point range. He was clearly hampered, unable to move as well as normal. He looked peg-legged at times moving around the court.

Some may use it as an excuse. Others won’t be so kind, especially when compared with 33-year old Jimmy Butler, who has been playing with a bad ankle and everything else during the series. Between the two wounded warriors, it was no contest.


Butler had a game-high 28. He backed his bravado. He took home the Eastern Conference finals MVP trophy. It could have easily gone to Martin, who was a constant force from distance. But Butler ultimately ruled.

For his part, Tatum, who limped to the podium for his postgame presser, tried to make the best of it, tried to fight through it, but wasn’t nearly as explosive as he usually is.

“It’s tough because it kind of impacted me the rest of the night,” said Tatum, who wasn’t in a walking boot. “It swelled up and it was just frustrating that I was kind of like a shell of myself. It was tough to move. Just frustrating. Especially it happening on the first play.”

Brown, meanwhile, just kept dribbling into traffic and turning the ball over, an issue that has plagued him during the postseason. Or, he just kept missing shots, as the Celtics had another horrible game from 3-point land (9 for 42, 21.4%).

White (18 points) got it going for a time, but couldn’t do it alone. He needed help from the dynamic duo, or at least, the healthier of the two.

Down by just 10 at the start of the fourth quarter, Tatum began by missing a lay-up underneath, Martin drained a 3-pointer, and then Brown ran himself into an offensive foul. Butler hit the next bucket, and a turnover and subsequent Heat dunk later, it was pretty much ballgame.

“We tried to compensate and it just didn’t work the way we thought it would. A lot of that is on me,” said Brown. “So I just got to take it on the chin and it is what it is.”

He’s going to take it, and then some. It’s going to be a long offseason for both.

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