18 leftover thoughts on Celtics’ run to 18th NBA title

The playoffs are over. The confetti is cleared. The Celtics are NBA champions.

Before their duck boat parade rolls through the streets of Boston on Friday morning, here are 18 assorted thoughts on Banner 18:

1. Danny Ainge and Brad Stevens both deserve credit for building this Celtics juggernaut, even if the former left before the latest payoff.

Ainge made the bold move to reset the franchise in 2013 by trading away Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, then hit home runs at the top of the draft with Jaylen Brown (third overall, 2016) and Jayson Tatum (third, ’17). Stevens built around that superstar foundation with a string of savvy trades, first reacquiring Al Horford, whom Ainge initially signed in 2016, and then to adding Derrick White in 2022 and Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis last offseason. He also hammered out extensions for Brown, Holiday and Porzingis.

Stevens was deservedly recognized as the NBA’s Executive of the Year, and those six players formed the core of the NBA’s deepest and most talented roster, able to withstand injuries and off nights in a way prior Celtics teams could not.

And with their entire rotation set to return next season, this group’s championship window is wide open.

2. The Celtics had their preferred starting five (White, Holiday, Brown, Tatum and Porzingis) for just four of their 19 playoff games, yet still went 16-3. For all of the talk about their weak Eastern Conference competition, the C’s were not at full strength for most of the postseason and were dominant nonetheless.

3. What an ascent this was for Joe Mazzulla.

Five years ago, he was coaching at Division II Fairmont State. Two years ago, he was an anonymous back-bench assistant for Boston. Last year, he looked understandably overmatched after being tabbed to replace Ime Udoka on the eve of training camp.

But Year 2 of the Mazzulla era was nearly flawless. The Celtics played beautifully efficient basketball in a season largely devoid of drama, both internally and on the court.

“Man, I love Joe Mazzulla so much,” said White, who called the eccentric coach both a “genius” and a “sicko” in the same postgame interview last week. “… I’d do anything for him.”

4. It was fun to see the Celtics fanbase fall in love with Porzingis, who received rousing ovations throughout the Finals. Injuries severely limited his availability in the postseason, but he was a floor-tilting player off the bench in Games 1 and 2 against Dallas and gutted through his rare ankle injury to play 16 gritty minutes in Game 5.

Even though the Mavs were able to exploit Porzingis’ lack of mobility at times in Monday’s finale, he still finished the Finals as a plus-33, 13 points better than any other player.

5. Porzingis is the Celtics’ third-best player, and the talent dropoff from him to the very useful Horford is substantial. But between the regular season and playoffs, Boston went a remarkable 31-6 in games Porzingis missed.

Boston, MA -Boston Celtics’ Kristaps Porzingis acknowledges the roar of the crowd as he takes to the court ahead of Celtics vs Mavericks in Game 5. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

6. The big question now for the 7-foot-2 center is when the Celtics will see him back on the floor. Porzingis reportedly needs surgery and is expected to miss several months, which could put his status for the start of the 2024-25 season in doubt. He turns 29 in August and is signed through 2026.

7. Tatum became just the sixth player since 1980 to lead his team in points, rebounds and assists during a championship run. The others: Nikola Jokic, LeBron James (three times), Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Larry Bird (twice). Decent company.

Tatum also led the Celtics in all three categories during the NBA Finals. Either he or Brown would have been a deserving Finals MVP, but seven of the 11 voters chose Brown. Both players praised each other postgame and said they didn’t care who took home that honor.

“MVP!!!” Tatum commented on an Instagram post of Brown holding both trophies. “(W)e both the mvp,” Brown replied.

8. Since Brown’s instantly iconic “I don’t got time to give a (expletive)” line about being left off of the All-NBA team, he’s won two individual awards: Eastern Conference finals MVP and NBA Finals MVP.

9. We’re now on contract watch for Tatum, who is eligible to sign a five-year, $315 million supermax extension this offseason. That inevitable deal will be the richest in NBA history, surpassing the one Brown signed last July.

Celtics’ title provides long-awaited validation for Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown

10. Another new contract candidate: White. The versatile guard is entering the final year of his current deal and is set to earn $18.8 million in 2024-25.

Stevens has said multiple times that White, a first-team All-Defense selection in each of the last two seasons, is part of Boston’s long-term plans.

“Derrick’s had an amazing year,” Stevens said in April. “Derrick’s a huge, huge part of our team, and we want him around for as long as we can keep him around.”

11. Perhaps no sequence from these playoffs better exemplified the Celtics’ toughness than White diving so aggressively for a loose ball Monday night that he mangled his front teeth, then drilling a three from the corner minutes later.

“This tooth is loose. The other two teeth are wiggling,” White said postgame, taking stock of his chiclets. “They were trying stuff in the locker room. I was like, I don’t care. Just play.”

Jayson Tatum #0 of the Boston Celtics celebrates Payton Pritchard #11 of the Boston Celtics 3-pointer from half court during the last seconds of the second quarter of Game 5 of the NBA Finals at the TD Garden. (Photo By Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

12. Payton Pritchard had what might be the most hilariously efficient stat line ever in an NBA Finals clincher. He played just four meaningful seconds (plus another 80 or so in garbage time) and attempted one shot, but that shot was a 43-footer from beyond halfcourt that beat the halftime buzzer and put the Celtics up 21.

It was one of two soul-snatching buzzer-beaters Pritchard hit in the Finals, with the other coming at the end of the third quarter in Game 2. Outside of those makes, he was 1-for-14 from three in the series.

“That dude, he’s a (expletive) legend, man,” Brown said.

13. Celtics players up and down the roster saluted Horford after the 38-year-old finally secured his first NBA championship in Year 17. Horford clearly commands immense respect from his teammates and coaches.

Cigars, champagne and ski goggles: Inside the Celtics’ unforgettable locker-room celebration

Brown, whose Celtics tenure began just weeks before Horford’s, put it best when he called the veteran big man “a real-life legend and hero.”

Horford plans to return to Boston next season, according to team owner Wyc Grousbeck.

14. Some international NBA history: Horford, Porzingis and reserve center Neemias Queta became the league’s first champions from the Dominican Republic, Latvia and Portugal, respectively.

15. After a dreadful East finals, Sam Hauser recovered wonderfully against Dallas. The reserve sharpshooter played surprisingly good defense against Luka Doncic early in the series and then hit two big threes in Game 5 as part of a 19-4 Celtics run that broke the game open in the late first and early second quarters. He also added a steal during that key stretch.

Hauser, who ranked 11th in the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage this season, has a team option in his contract for 2024-25.

Related Articles

Boston Celtics |

Boston Police arrest reports from the Celtics NBA championship ‘unruly’ celebration near TD Garden: ‘Their behavior turned volatile’

Boston Celtics |

Celtics’ title provides long-awaited validation for Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown

Boston Celtics |

Fire up the Duck Boats! Rolling rally set for Friday, after heat breaks

Boston Celtics |

Cigars, champagne and ski goggles: Inside the Celtics’ unforgettable locker-room celebration

Boston Celtics |

Payton Pritchard becomes Celtics ‘legend’ with miracle buzzer-beater in Finals clincher

16. Only Kyrie Irving truly knows how much the hostile TD Garden crowd affected him, but his home/road splits in this series were stark.

Two games in Dallas: 50.0% shooting, 41.7% from three, 28.0 points per game. Three games in Boston: 34.0% shooting, 17.6% shooting, 14.3 points per game — and three Mavericks losses.

17. Celtics fans can look forward to a few different behind-the-scenes docuseries spotlighting this title run. In addition to the excellent team-released “All In” series, Netflix cameras also reportedly followed Tatum throughout this season for a doc modeled after the streamer’s compelling “Quarterback” show.

18. Who will be MVP of the Celtics’ parade, aka the Rob Gronkowski Award? Our money is on Porzingis.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous post Brokerages Set Sempra (NYSE:SRE) Target Price at $82.00
Next post Trudy Rubin: Ukraine’s volunteer spirit buoys its fight against Russia