The $932m reality facing NBA powerhouse… and why another failure could be catastrophic

    The NBA Finals are not unfamiliar territory for the Boston Celtics.

    If anything, it should feel like home given they were here just two seasons ago.

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    And when they haven’t made it to the final hurdle, the Celtics have made the Eastern Conference finals six times since the 2016/17 season, winning it twice.

    But winning it all? That is unfamiliar territory given the franchise has not won the Larry O’Brien trophy since 2008.

    Yet they now have another chance to end the wait as a Finals series against the tricky Dallas Mavericks looms.

    However, there’s a sense that if the Celtics can’t get over the hump now, when will they?

    With extra firepower brought in through two major trades and a superstar handed a big contract, there can be no complaints about the roster.

    Couple that with a dominant record in the regular season and a soft playoff run, it’s now-or-never territory for the Celtics.

    It’s very much now-or-never for the Celtics when it comes to winning a championship. (Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images


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    Over the past eight seasons, Boston have been one of the most successful teams in the NBA.

    A powerhouse of their conference, the Celtics are an easy tip for pundits when it comes to predicting who will finish towards the top in the East.

    Once again Boston dominated their conference rivals as a 64-18 regular season record secured the No. 1 seed.

    It was the Celtics’ best regular season since 2007/08, the same season they last won a championship.

    Boston continued their dominance into the playoffs and go into the Finals having won 12 and lost twice across the first round, conference semi-finals and finals.

    With an overall record of 76-20 across the regular season and playoffs, the Celtics are the first team with two or fewer losses in a single postseason going into the NBA Finals since the Cavaliers and Warriors back in 2016/17.

    Not only that, Boston are just the fifth team in the last 25 years to go into the NBA Finals with 20 losses or fewer.

    Safe to say, this is a historically dominant Celtics team.

    But dig a little deeper into their playoffs run this postseason and you wonder if this team is actually as good as the record suggests.

    Boston have steamrolled their playoff opponents. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

    In the first round, Boston faced the Miami Heat who were without their superstar Jimmy Butler for the entire series.

    Without Butler, the Heat had little hope and were soundly beaten in the series 4-1 as the Celtics progressed to a conference semi-finals series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, their hopes were dealt a fatal blow when star man Donovan Mitchell suffered a series-ending calf injury in Game Three.

    Cleveland was also without centre Jarrett Allen for the entire series due to a rib injury.

    The Celtics had little trouble eliminating the Cavaliers 4-1 to seal a spot in the conference finals for the third-straight year, where they would take on surprise package Indiana.

    Sadly for the Pacers, the loss of All-Star Tyrese Haliburton for Game Three and Game Four left them with a mountain too high to climb as the Celtics secured a series sweep.

    Granted, Boston can only face whoever they’re up against.

    But it can’t stop pundits from noting they’ve had an absurdly soft run into the NBA Finals.

    “If it’s not the easiest path to the finals, it’s got to be top three or top four,” ESPN senior NBA writer Zach Lowe said on Get Up.

    Tatum enjoyed sweeping the Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

    “The Celtics have effectively gotten a bye to the NBA Finals. That might be unprecedented. There has not been a moment of real stress in these finals.”

    Lowe conceded there was little the Celtics could do in regards to the seeds shaking out the way they did and have “nothing to apologise for”.

    The fact Boston has enjoyed a stress-free run to the finals also had Miami Heat legend Udonis Haslem fearful of what could happen should results go against them early in the series against Dallas.

    “You definitely want to be battle tested, you want to build confidence, you want to build grit,” Haslem said.

    “You want to understand you can win games in the mud, you can win games when your best players aren’t playing well, you can win games when shots aren’t falling.

    “You want to know that you can win games in all shapes, forms and fashion.”

    It’s not impossible, but it’s highly unlikely the Celtics will enjoy a run to the finals as easy as this one ever again.

    A failure to capitalise on it would be an unmitigated disaster.

    The Celtics haven’t been properly tested in the playoffs. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images


    The Celtics’ remarkable postseason runs since the 2016/17 have coincided with the franchise drafting Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

    Brown and Tatum were selected by the Celtics in the 2016 and 2017 Draft respectively and, as a duo, have steered the franchise to the Eastern Conference finals in five of the seven seasons they’ve played together.

    But, for whatever reason, they could never clear the final hurdle and convert their dominance into championships.

    Having fallen short on several occasions, Boston decided this would be the season they go all-in on building a championship-winning roster.

    Last June, the Celtics traded away star guard Marcus Smart, Danilo Gallinari, Mike Muscala and the 35th overall pick to secure Kristaps Porzingis from the Wizards along with a future first round pick and the Grizzlies’ 2023 pick in a three-team trade.

    Porzingis, a towering centre and forward, was coming off one of the best seasons in his career having racked up career-highs in points (23.2), assists (2.7) and steals (0.9).

    Boston weren’t done with their roster moves, adding Jrue Holiday from Portland in return for Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams, a 2024 first round pick and a 2029 unprotected first round pick.

    In Holiday, the Celtics acquired a five-time All-Defensive selection and slotted right into the starting point guard which Smart had occupied for several years before his trade to Memphis.

    Holiday also brought championship experience having won the Larry O’Brien Trophy with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021.

    Jrue Holiday’s addition has been a welcome one for Boston. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

    Aside from bringing in new faces, the Celtics moved to extend Brown on a five-year supermax extension worth up to an eye-watering $AUD455 million last July.

    Tatum is also eligible for a supermax deal worth $477 million in this coming off-season. That’s a whopping $932 million tied up in two players.

    Having added Holiday and Porzingis to the roster alongside Brown and Tatum, the Celtics really couldn’t have asked for much more in terms of the firepower needed to win a first championship in 16 years.

    And if Tatum can’t deliver, would the Celtics still be inclined to tie him down to that supermax deal having failed to get over that final hurdle so many times before?

    The Ringer’s senior NBA writer Howard Beck believes the Celtics’ roster is in the best possible shape to break the championship drought, but Brown and Tatum cannot afford to slip up.

    “That Tatum and Brown tandem has been incredible at their best,” Beck said on The Rich Eisen Show.

    “But they have these glitches at times. Sometimes it’s a quarter, sometimes it’s a game, sometimes it’s a series.

    Brown was signed to a big extension last July. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

    “And I think everybody looks at them with admiration for their talent and everything that they’ve done but with a little bit of suspicion because they have these untimely pratfalls.

    “Now they’re a little bit older, they’re a little more experienced, a little deeper and better built.

    “If they have Porzingis, they will be in much better shape to win a championship than they were two years ago.”

    With an improved roster compared to the one that took on the Warriors in the 2021/22 Finals series, the Celtics cannot use the excuse of not having the cattle needed to get over the final hurdle.

    They’ve also enjoyed an extraordinarily easy playoffs run, although Boston can only beat what’s in front of them.

    It’s created the perfect storm for the Celtics to win their first championship since 2007/08.

    But it’s also why this team is under immense pressure to deliver and a failure to do so could result in some major consequences.

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