Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum averaged 27.2 points per game this postseason, but scored just 14 points in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, while limited by an ankle injury. Photo by C.J. Gunther/EPA-EFE
May 30 (UPI) -- Jayson Tatum said he was a shell of himself because of the ankle injury he sustained early on and that the Boston Celtics' poor shooting snowballed in their loss to the Miami Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Tatum made the comments after the 103-84 setback Monday in Boston. The All-NBA forward made just 5 of 13 shots en route to 14 points. He played 41:36, but was obviously hindered by the injury.
Tatum was noticeably less explosive on offense and struggled to keep up with Heat players on defense.
"It's tough because it kind of impacted me the rest of the night," Tatum told reporters. "It swelled up and it was just frustrating that I was kind of like a shell of myself. It was tough to move."
The injury sequence occurred on the first possession of Game 7. The Celtics won the opening tip off. Celtics guard Derrick White passed to center Al Horford in the paint. Horford then threw a pass to Tatum on the right base line. Tatum caught the pass, faked a defender at the 3-point line and drove toward the lane.
He then euro-stepped around Heat guard Gabe Vincent. Tatum threw up a shot, which rimmed out. He fell on Vincent, awkwardly bending his left ankle. Tatum landed on the ground, held onto the ankle and grimaced, but stayed in the game.
"It was just frustrating," Tatum said. "Especially it happening on the first play."
The Celtics made just 32 of 82 shots (39%) and 9 of 42 3-point attempts (21.4%) in the loss. Heat players made 42 of 86 attempts (48.8%) and 14 of 28 3-pointers (50%).
"I think just not shooting the ball well had an effect on us throughout the game," Tatum said. "And it just kind of snowballed."
The Celtics averaged 117.9 points per game, the fourth-most in the NBA, in the regular season. They made 47.5% of their shots and 37.1% of their 3-pointers. The Heat averaged a league-worst 109.5 points per game this season. They made 46% of their shots, the fifth-worst percentage in the NBA.
The Celtics totaled 31 makes from downtown through the first three games of the Eastern Conference finals, which were losses. They made 34 shots from downtown in their Game 4 and 5 wins, but hit just 7 of 35 3-pointers in their Game 6 win.
Tatum signed a five-year, $195 million contract extension in 2020. He is eligible for a five-year, $318 million super max extension in 2024.
Fellow Celtics star forward Jaylen Brown signed a four-year, $115 million extension in 2019 and is under contract for just one more season. He is eligible for a five-year, $295 million super max extension in 2024.
Celtics guard Marcus Smart and center Robert Williams are signed through 2025-26. Veteran center Al Horford and guards Derrick White and Malcolm Brogdon are signed through 2024-25.
Celtics forward Grant Williams is set to become a free agent this off-season.
"I think the year was a great year," Brown said. "Those guys in that locker room, through any circumstance, have stepped up, even from the start of the year, how things started off with our coaching staff, with all the different turmoil that we've experienced throughout the year, injuries, whatever.
"These guys have been a resilient group. So, it was just an honor to play with them and share the floor with our guys and our coaching staff. It's pain that we are here coming up short."