Watch CBS News

It's time to end this NBA title drought and other Boston Celtics takeaways

The Celtics are back in the NBA Finals, will they finish the job?
The Celtics are back in the NBA Finals, will they finish the job? 05:12

BOSTON -- We've got a full week before the Boston Celtics play Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

We still don't even know if they'll be playing the Dallas Mavericks or Minnesota Timberwolves. So, while we wait, let's take a step back and appreciate how the Celtics got here.

Celtics are "starving"

Boston is back in the NBA Finals for the second time in three years, and the Celtics are hungry to bring home a banner after falling well short in 2022 against the Warriors.

How hungry? Let elder statesman Al Horford explain.

"Starving," he said Monday night after the Celtics swept the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Fans also have an insatiable hunger for Banner 18 in Boston. It's been 16 years since the Celtics won their last championship, which was the franchise's first in 22 years at that point. One title in 38 years just doesn't cut it for an organization like the Boston Celtics.

So we're not going to appreciate a trip to the Finals too much, because the Celtics' work is far from done. Now is not the time to get complacent, and the Celtics know this. There are no Eastern Conference Finals -- or worse, NBA runner up -- banners at TD Garden for a reason. 

While they enjoyed some fun Monday night in Indiana, and have likely been basking in some joy the last few days, the Celtics are far from satisfied. Their 64 regular season wins and 12 postseason victories won't amount to much if they don't win four more games in June. It's that simple.

Now that that is out of my system, here are some takeaways from what has been an enjoyable run thus far for the Boston Celtics.

Jaylen Brown's playoff run

Jaylen Brown had his most efficient regular season and now he's making his mark on the playoffs. The Celtics are winning as a team, but Brown's fingerprints are all over a lot of the wins, especially in the Eastern Conference Finals.

He was shocked when he was named the series MVP, but Brown absolutely deserved the Larry Bird Trophy. He brought the Celtics back from the dead in Game 1 with his game-tying three, he dropped a 40-burger in Game 2 after being left off the All-NBA teams, and then erupted late in Game 4 after a slow start to help Boston complete the sweep. His biggest contributions in the series winner was a block and a sick pass in the final minute, the latter of which set up Derrick White's game-winning shot.

Brown averaged 29.8 points off 51.7 percent shooting while adding five rebounds and two steals a game in the conference finals. He's shooting 54 percent for the playoffs. And when he's not scoring, he's impacting games with his defense and his passing. 

The NBA should take notice. Keep snubbing Jaylen Brown at your own peril. But we'll take it, since the Celtics are going to need four more MVP-like performances out of the 27-year-old.

One small critique on Brown: He needs to be much better at the free throw line. He's hitting just 63 percent of his freebies, which could invite a Hack-A-Brown approach from the Mavs/Wolves in the finals. 

Jayson Tatum is pretty damn good too

He hasn't been efficient and boy is he struggling from downtown, but Tatum can still shift into beast-mode when the Celtics need it. He averaged 30.3 points per game against the Pacers, despite shooting just 31 percent from three-point range (taking nine attempts a game!). And it's not just his scoring, as Tatum pulled down 10.3 rebounds and dished out 6.3 assists per game in the Eastern Conference Finals.

He took over overtime in Game 1 and finished with 36 points. He had 36 points again in Game 3 in Indiana when he shot 52.2 percent overall and went 5-for-10 from downtown, and he made the pass to set up Al Horford's clutch three late in the game. Overall, Tatum has dropped 30 or more points on four different occasions this postseason.

Tatum is being raked for not averaging 40 points and 15 rebounds every night, but that game is coming. A strong Finals (and a ring on his finger) will really shush all those Tatum haters.

Jrue Holiday makes winning plays

We knew this coming in. But it is such a treat to watch Jrue Holiday make plays in crunch time. 

Big shots? He can hit those. Defensive stops? He's even better at that. 

Jrue Holiday is a big game hunter. How on earth were the Celtics lucky enough to get him last summer?

Derrick White is Mr. Everything

Even when Derrick White's shots aren't falling, he still finds a way to leave his imprint on the game. That was the case again in Monday's series clincher.

White's All-Defensive talents were on full display from start to finish in Game 4. He ended up with five steals and three blocks, becoming only the third Celtic to have at least three blocks and four steals in a playoff game, per stats guru Dick Lipe.

And then he went out and hit the game-winning shot. This guy does it all. 

Joe Mazzulla is a good coach

A bit of a maniac? Indeed. But Joe Mazzulla has shown throughout the regular season and the playoffs that he is indeed a good basketball coach.

He's calling timeouts when other teams go on runs or his team needs a bit of a pep talk. His rotations continue to be a work in progress with Kristaps Porzingis out, but Mazzulla has made it work, ala Oshae Brissett in Game 2 against the Pacers.

And now he's the youngest head coach in the NBA Finals since player/coach Bill Russell in 1969. Let's hope he has a similar finish to his season as Russell's Celtics did 55 years ago, when Boston took home a title against the L.A. Lakers. 

The Celtics CAN win close games

Sure, the Celtics were guilty of "playing with their food" as soon as the Eastern Conference Finals shifted to Indiana. And you can accuse them of doing it in Game 2 losses to the Heat and the Cavs too, though both teams had some ridiculous shooting nights to hand Boston its only losses of the postseason.

But everyone was huffing and puffing about the Celtics not being able to win close games, until they went out and ripped off comeback wins against the Pacers. Then it shifted that the Celtics shouldn't have been in close games with the Pacers. 

A win is a win in the playoffs. And the Celtics have won a lot of games this postseason. End of story.

Don't listen to all the hate

We've put up with weeks and weeks of easy path talk, and while extremely annoying, it's hard to dismiss the easy and fortunate road the Celtics have taken so far. That's the benefit of being the best team in the regular season. The path narrative was the only ammo the pundits had for a while, so they really hammered it home. (At least some of the memes are pretty good.)

Unfortunately, the usual suspects are just going to get worse in regards to the Celtics. On Wednesday, ESPN was trying to push the narrative that Jayson Tatum wasn't as excited as the rest of the team when Brown won MVP of the conference finals. Are we really doing this?

It seems like just about everyone outside of Boston hates the Celtics. I guess they're too much of a team in a league driven by star power, and their stars aren't big enough stars, or something like that.

If you're getting flustered with the national coverage of this Celtics run, head back to 1995 for the best advice, courtesy of The Simpsons: Just don't look

Ignore these dumb narratives. They're only doing this to tick everyone off and help their ratings and clicks. Don't give in. Just don't look. 

The Boston bench needs to be better

A return by Kristaps Porzingis, which seems like a strong possibility for Game 1, should help the bench. Al Horford can go back to his reserve role, and the Celtics can really get an inside-outside game going when the Unicorn returns to action.

Sam Hauser really needs to rediscover his shooting touch from the first two series, when he sank 20 of his 41 threes. He was just 2-for-16 from downtown against Indy.

Hopefully Payton Pritchard doesn't take anymore sneakers to the face, because Boston is going to need its reserve guard to make some plays in the Finals. 

The Celtics are loaded with talent, but the stars will likely even each other out against either the Mavs or the Wolves. That means role players will have to step up, and while Holiday and White are more than capable of winning games for Boston, a little more production from the bench would make things a lot easier on the Celtics.

Who do you want in the NBA Finals?

I was fully on board with wanting the Mavs to close things out Tuesday night and have to go on a long break like the Celtics. Now that the Wolves have won a game, I'm on board with the Mavs becoming the first team to lose after taking a 3-0 series lead. Or even just the series going seven. 

Tatum has played 567 minutes so far this postseason, which is a lot. It's the sixth-most in the NBA despite the Celtics only needing 14 games so far.

Who leads the NBA at the moment? Luka Doncic at 668 minutes, followed by Kyrie Irving at 644. Anthony Edwards is third at 605, while Dallas' P.J. Washington is at 585. That's a lot of minutes four extremely important players, and they'll be adding to that tally while the Celtics enjoy some rest.

As for who we want to see the Celtics play? Bring on the Mavs. Let's see Jaylen break Luka's ankles again and bring on the Kyrie storyline. 

People are complaining that these playoffs haven't had any juice. The Celtics and the Mavs battling for a title would throw the postseason in a blender. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.