On greatest stage, Tatum simply disappeared

How long did it take you Thursday night to realize that the Celtics were destined to see the Warriors turn their court into a parquet dance floor?

Anyone who didn’t firmly grasp this before the end of the first quarter has not been paying attention.

The Celtics led 14-2 within the first four minutes. In the ensuing eight minutes, Golden State outscored them 25-8.

That’s all, folks. Don’t fret over the chance of missing anything by grabbing a good book and occasionally glancing up at a muted TV.

No more drama. No more whining about officiating. No more wondering when Jayson Tatum is going to remind us just why he is the consensus pick as the Celtics’ most talented player.

It was destined to be one of those maddening performances for which these Celtics have become infamous.

There was nothing dramatic in the way Golden State took charge and kept a firm grasp on their fourth win in the best-of-seven NBA Finals. They rebounded, they defended, they did everything that got them there.

Post-mortems on how the Celtics buried themselves began long before the championship trophy was wheeled onto the court.

The Celtics bumbled their way into the abyss. Sloppy ball handling, poor shot selection, a stagnant offense that may not doom them on a chilly night in January against the Sacramento Kings but is fatal against any championship-caliber ballclub.

The simplest, but likely strongest case can be made that the Celtics folded because their leading star made nothing but cameo appearances throughout the series.

Tatum was awful. On the game’s great stage, he shrunk into the shadows.

Since the NBA is the most solidly star-based league of them all, no team is going to win a championship when its best player is just another guy.

That isn’t meant to suggest that everyone around Tatum was on speaking terms with perfection. Jaylen Brown carried the load and, had a miracle somehow landed, would have been the only choice for the finals MVP honors.

Tatum will hear his name tagged with the word choke – the time-honored damnation of stunning under-achievers.

It’s an easy explanation, requiring no great analysis.

Maybe Tatum couldn’t overcome his physical ailments. That’s a tough sell since there was not a player in uniform Thursday night that didn’t have something ailing them after more than eight months of hardcore competition.

Maybe he began running on empty sooner than his colleagues.

Quite possibly no one, including Tatum himself, will offer a definitive cause of his disappearance

But there is no debating that he did, indeed, disappear.

And the only way for him to get passed that is to get back to the great stage and perform like a champion.

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