Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 16: Jayson Tatum #0 and Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics speak to the media after losing to the Golden State Warriors 103-90 in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

  • With Thursday night’s loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Finals, the Celtics’ roller coaster of a season has come to an end. The team is now in an interesting position as it heads into the offseason. It’s a young group that should be able to count on internal growth as well as external additions. At the same time, the series exposed serious flaws in the roster, and there’s no guarantee of getting back to this point, regardless of the roster talent.

    All of those facts seemed to be recognized by the Celtics in the immediate aftermath of the game. Here’s what Ime Udoka and the players had to say during their final postgame press conferences of the season.

  • Ime Udoka

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 16: Head coach Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics reacts against the Golden State Warriors during the third quarter in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 16: Head coach Ime Udoka of the Boston Celtics reacts against the Golden State Warriors during the third quarter in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    What was his message to the team after the game?

    “It’s going to hurt. It will hurt for a while. Probably that stuff never goes away. I’ve lost one before. That was part of the message. Let it propel us forward, the experience. Growth and progress that we made this season. Obviously, getting to your ultimate goal and fall a few games short is going to hurt. There are a lot of guys in there, very emotional right now. The message was we thanked them for the effort and the growth and everything they allowed us to do coaching-wise this year. The biggest message was learn from this, grow from it, take this experience and see there is another level to get to. A team like Golden State who has been there, done that. It was evident in a lot of ways. Just don’t come back the same as players, coaching staff. Let this fuel you throughout the offseason into next year.”

    On what he wants Jayson Tatum to take away from this season and work on in the offseason:

    “Learn and understand who he is in this league. You’re an All-Star, All-NBA First Team guy for a reason. This is only the start of how you’re going to be guarded and the attention you’re going to draw. One thing that he’s always done throughout the season was seeing multiple different coverages and figured it out. He did that throughout the first few series. This was one a rough one. Very consistent team that did some things to limit him and make others pay. For him, it’s just continuing to grow and understand you’re going to see this the rest of your career. This is just a start. The growth he showed as a playmaker this year and in certain areas, I think this is the next step for him. Figuring that out, getting to where some of the veterans are that have seen everything and took their lumps early in their careers. Like I said, very motivated guy that works extremely hard, high IQ, intelligent guy that will learn from this and figure it out. I think it will propel him to go forward, definitely motivate him.”

    What changed in the last three games offensively?

    “You want versatility. That’s the main thing. A team like Golden State that has isolation guys that can go get a basket. Also, they’re willing playmakers but have off-ball actions and variety, which keeps you off balance. For us, we know we have guys that can go get a basket. It’s more about big picture, not getting stagnant, to your point. We can lean on that when we have to. When teams are singularly focused to take certain guys out, we have to have a fallback, whether it’s off-ball actions, post-up actions, some of the things we did tonight and throughout the season and playoffs at times. Strengthening up those areas, being more well-rounded. So when they try to take something away, we can obviously learn from that. That’s kind of the biggest conundrum all year, how we looked at times, took a step back a game or two later, even in the same game. I think those lulls in this series, today it was the end of the first quarter-start of the second. Those are the ones that really hurt you against a lethal offensive team.”

    On the Celtics’ lack of Finals experience relative to the Warriors:

    “I don’t really look at the experience or lack of being in the Finals as a huge factor. It’s obviously beneficial for them. But more so our experience as a group together and connectivity, you can see the difference between the team who has been there that long and some of our new guys, especially some core guys that got added midseason, with a guy like Daniel that is not playing as much or Derrick. But the experience of being in the Finals, I don’t think that moment was too big. Obviously we were 2-2 at a point and had a chance to do something special. I think we were battle-tested throughout the playoffs in some really hard series. The Finals was another step in that direction, but I think more so experience as a team as opposed to experience of the Finals in general was a factor.”

    What he learned about the Celtics in his first year with the team, and his expectations for the future:

    “We learned a tremendous amount about each other as a staff and them learning what we wanted and vice versa. That’s the message to the guys tonight. This is just the start. A foundation has been set. We can kind of hit the ground running next year. Let’s get healthy and all be on the same page. I think he’s absolutely right where we kind of expedited the process of some of the things we wanted to do. Now it’s a matter of taking that next step. What I did say to the group was there are levels. You can see the difference in Golden State, a team that’s been there, been together for a long time. The core group, it’s been 10 years now. We’ve seen what we can achieve. It hurts we fell short of that. But what I did say is the future is bright and we’re just getting started, so let’s all come back better from this experience.”

    What the Celtics need to do to get back to the NBA Finals:

    “I think not playing our best, probably playing our worst overall series is motivation enough. We have very highly motivated guys that didn’t play their best, honestly. We’re all going to grind away in the summer, improve in certain ways. I think the biggest part for us is the IQ section. That’s where we saw a huge difference in consistency with us and Golden State, just the little things that experience only can teach you. For us, that’s the message. Obviously, losing on a buzzer-beater against Ray Allen when I was in San Antonio will kind of fuel you throughout a whole season. But this was a little bit different. We improved in a lot of areas, but fell short of our ultimate goal. Some guys didn’t play their best. That’s going to motivate guys throughout the season. Like I said, the message is everybody come back better. Let’s not be satisfied. It’s not guaranteed you’re going to be here. The East is getting tougher every year. They’ll come back better. We will as a staff as well.”

  • Jaylen Brown

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 16: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics is defended by Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Golden State Warriors during the first quarter in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 16: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics is defended by Andrew Wiggins #22 of the Golden State Warriors during the first quarter in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    What he takes away from this series:

    “Man, I still got a lot to learn as a group, individually. As much as we made growth, turned our season around, still got a lot to learn about the game of basketball. I learned so much during this playoff run. Coming from not playing last year after wrist surgery, coming into this year’s playoffs just being grateful for the opportunity. Stings to come up short, but there’s a lot to learn and the future is bright.”

    On the impact of the Warriors having more Finals experience than the Celtics:

    “They won and we lost. We did it to ourselves. For sure, we had opportunities to go up and win. I guess we’ve shown our immaturity at times, and it stings. Still a young group. Still got a lot to learn. Nothing to hang our head about. Tough day for Boston. Tough day for the Celtics. Yeah, I don’t know what to say.”

    What he said to Jayson Tatum after the game:

    “Just gave him a hug, man. I know it was a tough last game. I know, obviously, it was a game we felt like we could have won. It stings that we kind of didn’t play to our potential. This game, the last game on our home floor. But it is what it is. You got to learn from it and move on. As tough as it is, it’s been a great year, been great journey. The start of the season nobody thought we would be here. Two games away from doing something special. Yeah, everyone’s like, Man, we really could have done it, really had the opportunity. Yeah, we did. Just wasn’t our time.”

    On if and when he’ll look at the overall picture of the season:

    “I don’t know. Everybody else, individual, is different. You know, give yourself a day or two. Wake up, things feel a little bit different. Yeah, this is probably going to stick with us for a while. Like you said, it’s about the bright spots. I’m proud of how this team has been resilient all season long. From what people were saying about us a couple months ago to what people were saying about us recently, it was night and day. This team had a lot of resilient guys, a lot of guys that responded to adversity. It was tough. We put ourselves in the position to be in the NBA Finals. That’s something to be proud of. I’m just grateful to be able to experience this with a great group of guys. It was fun.”

    Will this result fuel him moving forward?

    “Absolutely. The future is bright. I always look at adversity as opportunities to shape an individual. For whatever reason, it wasn’t our time. That means we still got a lot to learn. Personally, I still got a lot to learn. For me, it’s always about growth. Continuing to get better, continuing to find different ways to lead. That’s what it’s about. The future is bright. I’m excited to get back next year.”

  • Robert Williams

    Jun 16, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) defends a shot from Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during the second quarter of game six in the 2022 NBA Finals at the TD Garden. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    Jun 16, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics center Robert Williams III (44) defends a shot from Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (11) during the second quarter of game six in the 2022 NBA Finals at the TD Garden. Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

    His initial perspective on the season:

    “We fought through a lot of adversity in the beginning of the season. No more, you know what I’m saying? We lost, so…”

    On the mood in the locker room after the game:

    “Probably like it would’ve been in any locker room. You know, people quiet. Just couldn’t withstand their runs. Messing up. They played harder and won tonight.”

    What he learned in this series about what it takes to be a champion:

    “Every possession is purposeful. It seemed the other locker room realized that; we didn’t. They had a meaning to everything they were doing.”

    How long will he let this hurt before he starts focusing on next season?

    “It don’t stop hurting. Honestly, it never stops hurting until we’re back in this position again. Starting with the beginning of the season. Just got to be better, man. Got to be better. Everyone got to take a step up, add a little intensity to everything we’re doing. But it never stops hurting.”

    How special was this group?

    “I’m so proud of my guys. Coaching staff, too. The whole locker room, trainers, all of us, honestly. The way we fought through adversity, bounced back. Obviously, wish we could have done it throughout the whole season. But just love going to war with those guys.”

  • Al Horford

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 16: Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors goes up for a layup against Al Horford #42 of the Boston Celtics during the second quarter in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 16: Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors goes up for a layup against Al Horford #42 of the Boston Celtics during the second quarter in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    On getting this close only to fall short of winning a title:

    “Obviously very tough to lose and be in this position. I’m very proud of our group. I’m very proud of the growth of our group all year. We went from a below .500 team, average team, to putting it together. I don’t want to get caught up in necessarily some of the bad stuff that happened tonight. I want us to keep perspective on how much growth, to your question, Jayson and Jaylen had this year. There’s a lot on their hands, a lot of responsibility. They took it in stride. They made adjustments. They improved. They grew as players. But as you can see, there’s still a lot of growth and a lot of work for all of us. The Warriors definitely were on a different level. It’s something that we have to accept, and we all have to grow.”

    What he learned playing in the Finals:

    “It’s a huge learning experience just from the amount of attention, the stage itself, everything that entails this. Also on the court for me individually, just seeing how I can just continue to be of impact, be better for our group moving forward. So definitely a lot of growth. And with that, just really appreciative of our fans here, our Celtics fans here. All year they’ve been with us. These playoffs, it was very special. Obviously we wanted to do better for them, but they showed up, they lifted us up all year with their great energy. I’m very grateful for all the Celtics fans out there.”

    What was the Celtics’ issue beyond the turnovers:

    “It’s hard when you spot a team that many points. We started out well, then it got away from us. Offensive rebounds hurt us. Those turnovers really hurt us, as well. I felt like we kept fighting. But even when we fought and when we got to what felt like striking distance, we would turn the ball over again. We would do something that was unsound or unsolid. It’s hard when you have the momentum like that and you make a mistake, then they come down and score on the other end. It’s difficult. For whatever reason we felt like we were in good positions, but obviously this is a good learning experience for us. I really believe that for all of us this type of game, this type of stage. Yeah, I felt like we got better as the playoffs went on. Each series we figured out a way how to win. I’ve said this to you guys all year, but it’s tough to win, and our guys, we kept finding ways all year to get it done. We just couldn’t get it done against this team.”

    How the loss is hitting him personally:

    “Well, it’s difficult. Obviously for me, looking at this great opportunity in front of us, it just wasn’t meant for us this year. We fought really hard. I feel like we can hold our heads high. We gave everything that we could. For me, I’m looking forward to next year. It’s a big summer for us as a team, individually, to get better, to improve on this and for us to take it to another level.”

    What the Celtics need to do to make sure they get back to this point:

    “It’s something that we have to hang on to. We have to make sure that we have a good summer – a good summer as far as continuing to work and put in the work and get better and get prepared for next season. Obviously we’ll take some time. But we have a great opportunity in front of us to get better this summer individually, then when we come together as a group and build from this. I felt like we did a lot of growth, had a lot of growing all of this season, and it’s clear that we still have more to go. So I’m encouraged by that part. That’s going to be our challenge as a group, to be better for next season.”

  • Marcus Smart

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 16: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics talks with head coach Ime Udoka against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 16: Marcus Smart #36 of the Boston Celtics talks with head coach Ime Udoka against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    On his emotions after the loss:

    “It’s tough. We’ve been through a lot this year as a team, as a group, individually, collectively. You know, it’s tough. Every obstacle that was thrown in front of us, we prevailed and triumphed through it. Came up short tonight.”

    On what the team needs to improve:

    “Obviously to look back and say what we could have done, it’s tough. We all made mistakes that obviously shouldn’t have been made, could have been prevented. But we’re learning. That’s part of it. You take that and go into next season and you try to build off of it, the things that we did wrong and the things that we done great.”

    On what the Warriors did to slow down the Celtics’ offense late in games:

    “They did a good job. They were putting bodies in front of us, making us work for everything we got. It was tough. We tried everything we possibly knew. We even tried things that we haven’t tried the whole series. Just didn’t cut it for us. You learn from it. That’s really it, you know. Can’t look back on the past. You got to look ahead. That’s all that matters now.”

    On how much things have changed over the past few months:

    “I mean, I think for us, myself, it’s just everything that we have accomplished, everything we had to go through to even get to this situation. Nobody even had us being here, let alone in the playoffs. It definitely is tough. But it’s definitely one of those things we’ve been through hell to get here, and you take that. You know what I’m saying? We got to use that. It’s going to be tough. That’s what I know for myself I’m viewing it and looking at all the s— we had to get through to get here just to even get to this situation to have an opportunity. Proud of this team. Obviously we didn’t accomplish our goal. A lot of people, I’m sure a lot of you guys in here, counted us out early on in the season. For us, we’ll take it.”

    Why he believes the Celtics’ have a bright future:

    “I think for us, like I said, we speak of the route we had to take to get here. It wasn’t easy. That’s the confident part we have in it, you know what I’m saying? Like I said, we went through hell to get here. We didn’t play our best basketball, our best series. This is probably our worst series. It’s part of it. It happens. It is what it is. But, I mean, we’re young. Like I said, things we went through to get here showed us what we have to come for us in the future. I think that’s why we’re confident about the future. We all know what the goal is in the future.”

    On the Celtics’ foundation:

    “For us, it’s just hard-nosed, it’s who we are. We’re a family. We take and accept every challenge head on no matter the outcome, no matter the advantages we have or disadvantages. We’re going to take it full-heartedly. The guys came out here and competed. We could have gave up, but we didn’t. I think that shows the foundation that we have here.”

    How much will this loss fuel the team?

    “I mean, a lot. I mean, we see what we’re capable of. We got a taste of it. We want the whole thing. I know for a fact that we’re going to be back a different team. We’re going to put in the work. But this one’s going to hurt.”

  • Jayson Tatum

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - JUNE 16: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics reacts against the Golden State Warriors during the fourth quarter in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – JUNE 16: Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics reacts against the Golden State Warriors during the fourth quarter in Game Six of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden on June 16, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    How he feels the team needs to improve:

    “I think just our level of poise at times throughout this series and previous series. Myself included. Taking care of the ball, things like that. But it’s easy to look back and see all the things you could have done better. We tried. I know that for a fact.”

    On how slim the margin of error is to win a title:

    “It’s hard. It’s hard getting to this point. It’s even harder getting over it, the hump, and win it. It’s been a long journey, a long process. That’s what I took from it: it’s tough. You got to take it up another level to do what we want to do.”

    Does he feel like he needs a break after playing for nearly a year straight?

    “I got no choice now. It’s the off-season. This is tough, getting to this point and not accomplishing what we wanted to. It hurts. You know, we all could have done things better. I feel like I could have done a lot of things better. But, you know, like we said, we competed, we tried all season, all playoffs. Take some time off, enjoy with your family, rest, get back to it.”

    What was going through his mind in the final minute of the game?

    “I just keep saying: it hurts. Being with this group, the things we’ve overcome throughout the season, getting to this point. Just knowing how bad we wanted it, coming up short. It’s a terrible feeling.”

    On the disappointment of this loss fueling him moving forward:

    “We know what it feels like to get to this point. Like Smart said, getting here and not accomplishing it, it’s tough. You don’t want to feel like this again, but you want to get back here. So to answer your question, yeah, it’s going to fuel us.”