Boston Celtics Gear Up for 2024 NBA Finals

Why This Year's Celtics Are Poised to Break Their Championship Drought

by Faruk Imamovic
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Boston Celtics Gear Up for 2024 NBA Finals
© Getty Images/Eric Espada

As the Boston Celtics gear up to host Game 1 of the NBA Finals on June 6, anticipation is at an all-time high. This will mark the franchise's 81st playoff game in the past five seasons. Despite their impressive postseason runs, the Celtics have yet to secure a championship during this period. However, this season's team is different, and many believe they have what it takes to finally clinch the title.

Over the past five years, the Celtics, led by stars Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, have consistently reached the later rounds of the playoffs. They've made it to the Eastern Conference finals four times and are now heading to their second Finals together. Despite their successes, they haven't managed to bring home the 18th banner to the TD Garden. This year, however, optimism is in the air.

There are several key factors suggesting that this year's Celtics team is the best of this era and has the potential to end the title drought. Let's examine the reasons behind this confidence.

Playoff Experience: A Valuable Asset

When the Celtics faced the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 Finals, they were up against a team with significantly more experience on the biggest stage. The Warriors, with their seasoned stars Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson, were making their sixth Finals appearance in eight years. This experience was a crucial factor in their victory over Boston.

In contrast, the Celtics' roster now boasts considerable playoff experience. Seven players from the 2022 Finals team are still with Boston, and they've added Jrue Holiday, who won the Finals with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021. This experience gives Boston an edge over their potential Finals opponents. The Minnesota Timberwolves have no Finals experience, while only Kyrie Irving and Derrick Jones Jr. from the Dallas Mavericks have been to the Finals.

Jaylen Brown reflected on the team's growth after their East finals sweep of the Indiana Pacers, saying, "Time has gone by. Experience has been gained. And I think we are ready to put our best foot forward."

Boston Celtics Gear Up for 2024 NBA Finals
Boston Celtics Gear Up for 2024 NBA Finals© Getty Images/Maddie Meyer
 

Turning Weakness into Strength

In 2022, the Celtics struggled in clutch situations, which are defined as the final five minutes of regulation or overtime with a score differential of five points or fewer. Their net rating in these situations ranked 26th in the league, and this deficiency was even more pronounced in the playoffs. Late-game execution issues ultimately cost them the championship against the Warriors.

Recognizing the need for improvement, the Celtics focused on enhancing their performance in clutch moments heading into the 2023-24 season. The addition of Kristaps Porzingis provided a new dimension to their offense, particularly against the switch-heavy defenses they often face in late-game situations. This season, their clutch net rating improved dramatically, ranking fourth in the league and the highest for the franchise since the 2001-02 season.

This improvement has been evident in the playoffs as well. The Celtics have won all four of their clutch games this postseason, showcasing their ability to perform under pressure. While clutch performance can be unpredictable, the Celtics' enhanced late-game execution is a promising sign for their championship aspirations.

Dominating When It Matters

Throughout this postseason, the Celtics have demonstrated their ability to dominate games, particularly against injury-plagued opponents. This efficiency contrasts with their previous playoff runs, where they often found themselves in extended series.

In their journey to the 2022 Finals, the Celtics played back-to-back seven-game series against the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat. They did the same last season, ending with a Game 7 loss to Miami. This year, however, they've needed just 14 games to reach the Finals and have gone 3-0 in closeout opportunities.

Boston's postseason performance has been bolstered by injuries to key players on opposing teams, including Tyrese Haliburton, Jimmy Butler, Jarrett Allen, and Donovan Mitchell. As a result, the Celtics have posted a plus-10.8 net rating in the playoffs, a feat achieved by only seven teams in the play-by-play era. Four of the previous six teams with such a rating went on to win the championship.

The Celtics also had the second-best net rating during the regular season, trailing only the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls, who went on to win the championship. This statistical dominance underscores their potential to succeed in the Finals.

The Road to Victory

While these factors bode well for the Celtics, nothing is guaranteed. If the Mavericks advance, Luka Doncic could prove to be a formidable opponent, having finished third in MVP voting. Both Dallas and Minnesota have faced tougher competition to reach the Finals, which could make them resilient challengers.

However, the Celtics have demonstrated they are not the same team that fell short in previous years. With improved clutch performance, significant playoff experience, and dominant play throughout the postseason, this is the best version of the Boston Celtics we've seen during this era. Fans and analysts alike are hopeful that this time, the Celtics will finally secure their 18th championship banner.

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