The Celtics need to stop complaining about officiating and regain their composure. And Jayson Tatum needs to step up and play like an All-NBA first teamer. Tatum had 27 points and 10 rebounds Monday, but this was a 1-point game going into the fourth quarter and Tatum again turtled down the stretch, making 1 of 5 shots with no rebounds and no assists in 11 soft minutes of the fourth. He was minus-13 for the night.
The Celtics can still make this right. They’ve already won two Game 7s and three elimination games in their grueling playoff spring. Only one NBA team (1988 Lakers) won three seven-game series and if the Celts do it this weekend, they’ll be the first team in NBA history to win two Game 7s on the road.
If it makes you feel any better, the Green Team also has history on its side.
Bill Russell and Co. won a Game 7 in the LA Forum against Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West and Elgin Baylor in 1969.
Dave Cowens, John Havlicek and Jo Jo White won a Game 7 at the Mecca in Milwaukee against Lew Alcindor and Oscar Robertson in 1974.
Now Tatum and Jaylen Brown have to win Games 6 and 7 against Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, who’ve won three NBA crowns since 2015.
These Celtics always seem to do things the hard way. They had to win an elimination Game 6 in Milwaukee in the conference semifinals and they had to win Game 7 on the road in the conference finals against Miami. They blew a golden opportunity last Friday night at the Garden, getting outscored, 17-3, in the final five minutes of a 10-point loss.
“We don’t do this [expletive] on purpose,’’ Tatum said, “I promise you, we don’t.’’
“We understand the opportunities that were lost,’’ coach Ime Udoka acknowledged prior to Game 5.
The rookie bench boss was talking about Boston’s flop at the end of Game 4 at the Garden Friday, giving Golden State home-court advantage for the final three games.
Monday was perhaps even more demoralizing. The Celtics could not win on a night when Steph Curry went 0 for 9 on 3-point attempts and scored only 16 points — the first time in 133 postseason games that Curry failed to drain a three. Andrew Wiggins (he was once the No. 1 pick in the country) went off for 26 points and 13 rebounds. And there was more weak sauce from Tatum, who has yet to assert himself in the Finals. Tatum has not played like an All-NBA first teamer. Meanwhile, Brown made only 5 of 18 shots, turned it over five times and was a minus-19.
“The key to the game was our defense — to hold that team to 94 points,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr.
This is the first time the Celtics lost back-to-back games since March 28-30 and that was only because Udoka left four starters in Boston for a game in Toronto. The C’s are 7-1 after a loss in these playoffs.
The Celtics committed 18 turnovers (the Warriors had six). The Celts are setting Finals turnover records. This carelessness is killing the C’s. It makes you wonder if they ultimately can’t win because they don’t have a true point guard.
Celtic Nation turns its lonely eyes to Tiny Archibald and Bob Cousy.
“We’re all frustrated on the night a little bit,’’ said Udoka.
The first quarter was a Celtic stink bomb. After getting outscored ,17-3, in the final five minutes of the Game 4 loss in Boston, the Celts fell behind by 16 in the first quarter, missing all five 3-point attempts, shooting 35 percent overall and committing four turnovers.
If you take the final five minutes of Game 4 and the first seven minutes of Game 5, the Celtics were outscored, 34-9, over a full 12 minutes. As Bill Belichick would say, “not what we were looking for.’’
Tatum’s struggles have been a series-long theme. He needs a LeBron James Game. He needs a Paul Pierce Game. Even a Jimmy Butler Game would do. He is a turnover machine with 95 in the playoffs — the most of any player going back to 1978, according to Boston Sports Info.
The Celtics missed their first 12 3-point attempts, not connecting until the seventh minute of the second quarter. Boston trailed for the entire first half, getting no closer than 6 (32-26). Green, Golden State’s loudest, yet worst player over the first four games, got some revenge in the first two quarters of this one, scoring 8 with 4 rebounds, 3 assists and a block.
Udoka’s men roared out of the blocks after halftime and took their first lead of the night (58-55) on a three by Al Horford six minutes into the third. It was one of the most competitive quarters of the series and ended when Jordan Poole banked a 40-footer at the buzzer to give the Dubs a 75-74 lead.
“We’re right where we need to be,’’ Kerr told ABC before the fourth.
He spoke the truth.
Led by Poole, the Warriors scored 10 straight points to start the final quarter as the Celtics — particularly Marcus Smart — started to lose their composure. The immature Celtics took 31 free throws to the Warriors’ 15, but still complained all night and picked up two technicals. Tatum missed four free throws, which felt like a metaphor of sorts. The Warriors are 11-1 at home in these playoffs and will be home Sunday if the Celtics are able to force a Game 7.
Father’s Day. Game 7. In Mission Bay. Wouldn’t that be cool? Wonder if Del Curry, Michael Thompson, Gary Payton Sr., and Tito Horford will be there.
It’s not over yet.
It just feels that way.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.