20 Second Timeout is the place to find the best analysis and commentary about the NBA.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Boston Celtics Cap Dominant Season With Dominant Win Over Dallas Mavericks

The Boston Celtics led wire to wire en route to posting a 106-88 game five win over the Dallas Mavericks to clinch an NBA record 18th championship. The Celtics notched just the third wire to wire win in an NBA Finals series-clincher since 1982, joining the 1982 L.A. Lakers and the 1986 Boston Celtics. The Celtics led by as many as 26 points in game five, and their lead never fell below 17 during the second half. 

Jayson Tatum scored a game-high 31 points on 11-24 field goal shooting while also passing for a game-high 11 assists, snaring eight rebounds, and committing just two turnovers. He played a game-high 45 minutes, and he set the tone from opening tip to final buzzer while joining Walt Frazier (1970), James Worthy (1988), Michael Jordan (1991), and Stephen Curry (2017) as the only players to have at least 30 points and at least 10 assists in a Finals-clinching win.

Tatum has been much maligned by many media members--even during what turned out to be a 16-3 postseason run culminating in a championship--so it should be noted that Tatum led the Celtics in points (25.0 ppg), rebounds (9.7 rpg), and assists (6.3 apg) during the 2024 playoffs; even when Tatum is not scoring efficiently, his fingerprints are on everything that the Celtics do at both ends of the court: he is an elite defensive rebounder, he is an excellent playmaker, and even on the scoring plays for which he does not receive an assist he draws the double teams that create open shot opportunities for his teammates. He is the team's one indispensable player, and he led the Celtics in scoring (22.2 ppg), rebounding (7.8 rpg), and assists (7.2 apg) during the NBA Finals. Tatum has now won 68 career playoff games, fourth most all-time for a player younger than 27 behind only Kobe Bryant (76), Tony Parker (75), and Magic Johnson (70). Bryant, Parker, and Johnson each won three championships before the age of 27, while this championship is Tatum's first--but winning multiple championships before age 27 is the exception, not the rule, and Tatum now has won one more championship than six-time champion Michael Jordan and four-time champion LeBron James had won at age 26. 

Jaylen Brown added 21 points on 7-23 field goal shooting, plus eight assists and six rebounds. Tatum is Boston's best and most complete player, but Brown's consistency helped him to earn the 2024 Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP after winning the 2024 Larry Bird Eastern Conference Finals MVP. Throughout the NBA Finals, Brown played excellent defense versus Luka Doncic in addition to providing his customary contributions as a scorer, rebounder, and passer. Brown averaged 20.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg, and 5.0 apg during the NBA Finals, but he outshot Tatum from the field (.440 to .388), and that probably made the difference in the Finals MVP voting. Brown averaged 23.9 ppg, 5.9 rpg, and 3.3 apg during the 2024 playoffs while shooting .516 from the field.

Jrue Holiday had 15 points on 7-14 field goal shooting, a team-high 11 rebounds, four assists, and a game-best +21 plus/minus number, giving the Milwaukee Bucks yet another reason to rue trading him to Portland for Damian Lillard, which resulted in Boston acquiring Holiday. Holiday has been a key contributor for two of the past four NBA champions, as he helped Milwaukee capture the 2021 title.

Al Horford, a five-time All-Star in his 17 season NBA career, had nine points and nine rebounds in game five and won his first NBA title after playing 1086 regular season games and 186 playoff games. Tatum and Brown are Boston's headliners, but Horford is a highly respected veteran who is still logging impactful minutes as a 38 year old.

Kristaps Porzingis missed 10 straight playoff games with a right calf injury, made a sensational return to action in game one of the NBA Finals, and then suffered a lower left leg injury late in game two that forced him to miss games three and four. He scored five points in 16 minutes off of the bench in game five, and his +8 plus/minus number indicates that he had a positive impact during his limited minutes. It is likely that Porzingis will need surgery followed by months of recovery time now that the season is over.

Joe Mazzulla (35) is the youngest coach to win an NBA title since Bill Russell served as the player-coach for the 1969 Boston Celtics. Tatum is 26, and Brown is 27, so the Celtics--who have already reached the Eastern Conference Finals six times in the past eight years--are in great position to contend for championships for the next several years. Their 16-3 playoff record in 2024 is the second best since the NBA went to its current postseason format of four seven game series in 2003, trailing only the 16-1 mark posted by the Kevin Durant-Stephen Curry 2017 Golden State Warriors.

Luka Doncic scored a team-high 28 points on 12-25 field goal shooting, grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds, and passed for five assists. The only blemish on his stat line was a game-high seven turnovers--matching Boston's team total--and it is fair to say that this game was a microcosm of the series: Doncic played well against the league's best defense, but the Celtics had the necessary personnel and scheme to guard him one on one without fearing what any of Doncic's teammates would do. Anyone who watched the playoffs knows that Doncic played through an assortment of injuries without making excuses, and after game five he refused to discuss the extent of his injuries, concluding simply that he has to play better. There are many stars who would not have played through injuries the way that Doncic did, and many of the stars who might have played through injuries would certainly have not missed an opportunity to remind everyone just how injured they were: after being swept in the 2018 NBA Finals, LeBron James hastened to mention that he "pretty much played with a broken hand." James never clarified if his hand was actually broken or just "pretty much" broken, and it should be noted that the injury was self-inflicted: James punched a whiteboard after losing game one of that series. It is refreshing to not hear from Doncic how he "pretty much" played through whatever was ailing him.

ESPN's J.J. Redick has repeatedly called Kyrie Irving a "wizard," and Redick joins the chorus praising Irving as the most skilled ballhandler of all-time--but all of that so-called wizardry resulted in 15 points on 5-16 field goal shooting in game five, including 0 points on 0-3 field goal shooting in the first quarter as the Celtics took command and never looked back. Irving averaged 19.8 ppg on .414 field goal shooting during the series, numbers well below what the Mavericks needed from him. Irving was particularly bad during the three games played in Boston, and he candidly admitted that the pressure of playing in front of his former team's fans got the best of him. There is a difference between being a flashy ballhandler versus having the necessary ballhandling skills to defeat a championship-level defense, a distinction that Redick and many others fail to understand or acknowledge. It will be interesting to see how many media members continue to force feed us the Kyrie Irving redemption narrative while ignoring Irving's unrepentant antisemitism and the fact that his Chinese shoe company profits from utilizing slave labor.

The NBA is often a first quarter league, and this game was no exception: the Celtics led 28-18 after the first 12 minutes, and the outcome was never in serious doubt the rest of the way. Every Boston starter had at least eight rebounds as the Celtics outrebounded the Mavericks, 51-35. We are told so much about "pace and space" and "small ball," but the Celtics won this championship by exploiting their old school advantages in size, defense, and versatility that I emphasized in my series preview.

The Celtics enjoyed a dominant 2023-24 regular season, posting a 64-18 record and the fifth best point differential (11.3 ppg) of all-time, and they went 12-3 during the first three rounds of the playoffs--but many pundits tried to convince themselves (and others) that the Mavericks would beat the Celtics in the NBA Finals, and that noise became louder after Dallas routed Boston in game four. If the overrated concept of momentum had any validity, then Dallas would have won game five--or at least been competitive in game five--but this series demonstrated yet again that the NBA playoffs are about matchups, not momentum. After Dallas' game four win, ESPN's Brian Windhorst blasted Doncic--who has emerged as a perennial MVP candidate--as someone who will never win a championship without dramatically changing his game, and other ESPN talking heads spent much of the time between games four and five talking about the potential implications of a Dallas win in game five. The Mavericks did not make some brilliant game four adjustments, nor did the Celtics make some brilliant game five adjustments. The reality is that the Mavericks were content to not be swept on their court, and they did not offer much resistance in game five; the Mavericks' one win was an outlier that did not alter the fact that the Celtics enjoyed significant, decisive matchup advantages.

The Celtics earned this championship without tanking, load management, or building a "super team": they drafted two strong prospects--Brown and Tatum--and then not only patiently developed those prospects into stars, but they built around those stars while tuning out the loud voices who asserted that this duo could never lead the Celtics to a title. The Celtics' patience and wisdom has been rewarded with a championship, and it would not be surprising if the Celtics win multiple titles if they continue to demonstrate patience and wisdom.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

posted by David Friedman @ 2:52 AM



At Tuesday, June 18, 2024 12:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tatum should've won Finals MVP. He played subparly, but so did Brown. They both shot poorly, but their TS% was much closer. Actually, Doncic has a strong case for Finals MVP even if his defense was poor, but I don't think that'll happen again with a losing player winning Finals MVP.

Holiday did fine for his role. He's a good player, but I can't imagine the Celtics not winning the title with any current starting PG in the league. And let's not forget, Holiday was bounced in the 1st round 4-1 vs the 8th seed last year. Giannis only played 3 of the 5 games, but that's 3 more games than he played in the playoffs this year. No team is going anywhere if their best player isn't able to play in the playoffs. The Bucks would've been bounced in the 1st round this year with or without Holiday.

The Celtics didn't build a super team by acquiring star free agents, but they still built a super team nonetheless. They have 2 of the top 15-18 players in the league. They signed Porzingis in the offseason, who is AS caliber when healthy. Horford isn't a star anymore, but a likely future HOFer. White and Holiday made the all-defensive 2nd team.

At Tuesday, June 18, 2024 12:56:00 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

Ugh, LeBron claiming that he “pretty much played with a broken hand” is the professional athlete equivalent of “the dog ate my homework”. I do not recall him having any surgery or other treatment for his “broken hand” and the Lakers didn’t seem concerned about his hand before signing him. It reminds me of his alleged elbow injury in the 2010 playoffs against the Celtics. If I recall correctly, you were covering the Cleveland home games in that series and you saw James taking half-court shots before the game with the arm that was supposedly injured.

Regardless of whether or not Doncic was playing through legitimate injuries, which I believe he was, there was never any doubt that he gave everything he had and did everything within his control to try and win his first championship. He legitimately did not receive enough help in the Finals but he didn’t sulk or take passive aggressive shots at his teammates in postgame press conferences. He played his hardest while also acknowledging that he needed to play better. I don’t think you can ask anymore from a player.

At Tuesday, June 18, 2024 2:56:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I would have selected Tatum, but I understand that his low FG% may have hurt his candidacy. Other than FG%, I would not agree that Tatum's play was "subpar," nor do I think that Brown's play was "subpar." In general, the game slows down in the playoffs, which results in fewer possessions and thus reduced individual statistics.

Jerry West winning the first Finals MVP as a member of the losing team is an outlier that will likely never happen again. If you think that Tatum and Brown were subpar despite their key efforts for the team that won 4-1, I am not sure how you cannot think that Doncic was subpar for the team that lost 4-1.

The Celtics had Marcus Smart--an above average point guard and Defensive Player of the Year winner--for many years and did not win a title, so I don't have to imagine them failing to win a title with a point guard other than Holiday: I remember seeing it happen, repeatedly.

Do you honestly think that the Bucks upgraded their championship chances by swapping Holiday for Lillard?

I would define "super team" in the current era as a team built by star players insisting that they will only play with each other for a specific team (LeBron and AD, Kawhi and Paul George, Durant, Harden, and Irving, Durant, Booker, and Beal, etc.). That is in direct contrast with the way that the Celtics built their championship team.

At Tuesday, June 18, 2024 3:07:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


When LeBron played for the Cavs the first time around, Coach Mike Brown said that they were a "no excuses" team--but I don't think that LeBron ever fully bought into that, as can be seen throughout his career.

Yes, I was a "Witness" (to borrow the Cavs' marketing slogan at the time) to LeBron shooting halfcourt shots with his supposedly injured elbow.

In general, it is true and obvious that Doncic should improve his conditioning and his defensive effort--but neither of those factors are the reason that Dallas lost, because Boston was clearly the superior team. After game four, Windhorst sounded like "Screamin' A" had temporarily possessed him; the way that Windhorst made it so personal against Doncic screams (literally) that there was an agenda behind what Windhorst said and how he said it. Has Windhorst ever gone after Harden or Lillard that way? For that matter, even though Windhorst critiqued Irving after game five his remarks were muted and tentative compared to how he unloaded on Doncic--and Irving was terrible for most of this series. Irving is the seasoned championship vet, so it would be more justifiable to unload on him than to fire at Doncic, who carried the Mavs farther than most people would have expected at the start of the season.

At Wednesday, June 19, 2024 5:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

in game 5, these teams shot a combined 24-76 from 3 (Bos 13-39; Dal 11-37, https://www.espn.com/nba/boxscore/_/gameId/401656363).

I'll pass on whatever game it is that they're playing

At Wednesday, June 19, 2024 10:18:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Anonymous. Boston had a little bit of ball movement, but Dallas just stood around at the three-point line watching Doncic and standing around waiting for him to pass them the ball so they could jack up a three.

I miss the beautiful ball movement of the Spurs of the 2010s and the Warriors of the 2010s and early 2020s. The Nuggets are fun to watch for similar reasons too.

At Thursday, June 20, 2024 8:40:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

As a player, the three point shot is a major part of my game. As an analyst and fan, I enjoy watching good three point shooting.

That being said, I agree that the three point shot is overused now, and I also agree that the modern game is not as much fun to watch as earlier versions of the game that featured players and teams showcasing full usage of the court on offense instead of this narrow-minded, analytics driven "layups and threes" approach. The misapplication and overemphasis on "advanced basketball statistics" have been negatively impacting the game for quite some time, as I have documented in many articles.

At Thursday, June 20, 2024 10:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey David. Hope all is well.

I can across a hypothetical the other day on NBA Twitter and wanted to see if you want to give your opinion:

“How would you rank the Title teams since 2020.”

Celtics seem like by far the best combined regular season/post season team of the last 5 years, but there are some teams that could match up well with them.

Would the Warriors be the weakest?

At Thursday, June 20, 2024 11:53:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Among the 2020 Lakers, 2021 Bucks, 2022 Warriors, 2023 Nuggets, and 2024 Celtics, I would rank the Warriors and Lakers below the other three. The Warriors missed the playoffs in two of the past four seasons, while the Lakers have not advanced past the first round in three of the four seasons since they captured the "Bubble" title. In contrast, the Bucks have won six straight division titles, and only injuries to Giannis have prevented them from making deeper playoff runs the past two years, while the Nuggets have reached at least the second round five of the past six years and the Celtics have reached the Conference Finals six times in the past eight seasons. In short, the Bucks, Nuggets, and Celtics have been consistently good for a long time, while the Lakers and Warriors have not been as consistent. Further, I think that specifically comparing each championship team the Lakers and Warriors would not fare well in a hypothetical tournament with the 2021 Bucks, 2023 Nuggets, and 2024 Celtics. We have seen that the Lakers have no answer for Jokic in the playoffs, and there is no reason to believe that the Warriors would, either (Jokic dominated the 2022 Warriors but the Warriors won because Murray was out; with both players healthy, the Warriors would not win).

At Friday, June 28, 2024 9:12:00 AM, Blogger Awet M said...

Agreed with the ranking of those past 6 champions. I'd pick the 2023 Nuggets over the other two (2021 Bucks and 2024 Celtics) just because Jokic has the higher ceiling than anyone else.

It's safe to say the age of dynasties is long gone, and the NBA is now in a "Day Trader" era. No more caste system, cuz it's a Hunger-Game styled free for all. Every season crowns a new team. Making it more possible to break through the logjam than ever before.


Post a Comment

<< Home