After a mediocre 25-25 start to the 2021-22 season, the Boston Celtics caught fire, as they were the hottest team in the NBA the rest of the way.
They went 26-6 after that 25-25 start and finished with 51 wins and the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
Their momentum took them all the way to the NBA Finals, and after taking a 2-1 series lead over the Golden State Warriors, many felt Boston was on its way to winning the world championship.
But instead of earning banner No. 18, it suffered only its fourth Finals loss ever, losing each of the next three contests to Stephen Curry and crew.
Jayson Tatum, the best player on the Celtics, was cited as the main culprit, and he recently admitted during a Bleacher Report interview that losing the title took its toll on him.
"I was miserable"
Jayson Tatum opens up on the aftermath of losing the NBA Finals during live interview with Taylor Rooks in B/R app
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 21, 2022
“… it was just so tough because I literally gave everything that I had,” said Tatum. “To feel like I ran out, that I didn’t have anything left to give, and that we were so close … I didn’t have an appetite, I didn’t want to talk to anybody, I didn’t want to go anywhere.”
Tatum Played Poorly During The Finals
For the last couple of years, many around the basketball world have been hyping Tatum as the game’s newest superstar.
He averaged a career-high 26.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game in the regular season while shooting a respectable 45.3 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from 3-point range.
In fact, some had even predicted that Tatum could become the best player in the world fairly soon.
Stephen A Smith says Jayson Tatum will be the best player in the NBA one day. Do you agree? pic.twitter.com/1d2zCmJIpy
— Ahn Fire Digital (@AhnFireDigital) August 23, 2020
But when it mattered most on the big stage, Tatum went from a leprechaun to a harmless shrimp.
In the Finals against Golden State, he shot just 36.7 percent overall while his scoring average dipped to 21.5 per game.
He shot under 40 percent in four of the six games, and in Game 6, with his team facing elimination on its own home court, he went just 6-of-18 from the field and put up just 13 points.
It was a humbling experience for a man who had just been named to the All-NBA First-Team for the first time, and it’s the type of thing that can either devastate or motivate him.
He Can Bounce Back
If it’s of any solace to Tatum, a handful of great superstars and legends played poorly in their first trip to the championship series.
LeBron James, one of the greatest to ever play the game, got swept in his first NBA Finals appearance and shot just 35.6 percent from the field.
He did even worse in his second trip to the Finals, blowing a 2-1 series lead to the underdog Dallas Mavericks while repeatedly falling apart mentally and running away from shots in the fourth quarter.
Even Larry Bird, arguably the greatest Celtic of them all, struggled the first time he played for the world title.
In 1981, just his second season in the league, he averaged a paltry 15.3 points a game on 41.9 percent shooting while making under 32 percent of his shots in three of six games versus the Houston Rockets.
The difference there was that Bird’s Celtics emerged victorious.
As a result, some are picking Boston to reach the Finals again, if not win it all next summer.
That would give Tatum an incredible opportunity to redeem himself and get rid of the pain he has been feeling this offseason.