The initial play of Monday’s Game 7 between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat established the tone for the entire evening.
Jayson Tatum, a key player for the Celtics, experienced an ankle injury shortly after executing a layup within the opening 30 seconds.
Despite remaining in the game, Tatum’s visible discomfort and reduced level of explosiveness indicated that he was persevering through pain.
Jayson Tatum hurt his ankle on the first play of the game.
He's staying in the game. pic.twitter.com/Tny92sVPXb
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 30, 2023
Predictably, Tatum’s contribution of 14 points on 5-of-13 shooting fell short of propelling the Celtics to the NBA Finals of 2023.
Boston encountered significant difficulties on both offense and defense, shooting a mere 39 percent from the field (including a 9-of-42 performance from beyond the arc), while the Heat achieved a 48.8 percent field goal percentage (including 14 successful three-pointers out of 28 attempts).
In the absence of Tatum’s optimal performance, Jaylen Brown struggled to step up as the Celtics’ primary scorer, evidenced by his 8-of-23 field goal shooting, 1-of-9 three-point shooting, and 8 turnovers.
Following the 103-84 defeat, Tatum commented on his ankle injury, which has yet to receive an official diagnosis.
Tatum expressed his awareness of the ankle injury after reviewing the post-game video, stating that he landed on his ankle in a way that affected him for the remainder of the game.
The swelling of his ankle made it frustrating as he felt limited in his abilities and unable to move freely.
The timing of the injury was particularly disheartening, considering it occurred right at the beginning of the game.
Marcus Smart acknowledged Tatum’s determination in playing through the injury, commending him for his perseverance.
Smart also mentioned other players on the team who faced their own physical challenges, with Derrick White leaving the game late due to a knee issue and Malcolm Brogdon dealing with an arm problem throughout the series.
Smart remarked on Tatum’s significant ankle injury early in the game, noting that he could have opted to come out of the game but chose to stay in and fight despite not being his usual explosive self.
The ankle injury clearly bothered Tatum, affecting his performance.
Smart emphasized the collective effort to support Tatum despite the unfavorable outcome.
Additionally, the team faced further setbacks with D-White’s knee injury and the existing issue with Malcolm Brogdon.
It was a challenging situation, especially considering the timing, but they recognized that injuries are an uncontrollable aspect of the game.
The Miami Heat have advanced to the 2023 NBA Finals and will now go up against the Denver Nuggets.
The first game of the Finals is set to take place on Thursday at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Time.