Celtics take bitter with sweet after losing in NBA Finals

BOSTON — The Celtics made an NBA Finals run nobody saw coming, rising from a team that was three games under .500 in early January under a first-time head coach to being within two victories of winning the franchise’s 18th championship.

After having those hopes dashed in the haze of three straight losses to the champion Golden State Warriors, Boston’s young core is vowing to use the pain as motivation heading into the offseason. While they didn’t win, the Celtics have established themselves as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

“The biggest message was learn from this, grow from it, take this experience and see there is another level to get to,” coach Ime Udoka said after Thursday night’s loss. “Just don’t come back the same as players, coaching staff. Let this fuel you throughout the offseason into next year.”

When Udoka took over the coaching reins from Brad Stevens this past offseason, the Celtics were a team in transition.

Stevens, it seemed, had gotten the Celtics as far as he could during eight seasons on the bench. He took Boston to three conference finals but failed to help its youthful core led by budding All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown get over the hump.

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