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Boston Celtics: The keys to a historic 18th championship

Becoming the most successful franchise in history starts with building a balanced roster, putting aside individual goals, having a defined strategy and protecting home court.

Los Boston Celtics cosechan su decimoctavo anillo de la NBA. 17 de junio de 2024.

(Cordon Press)

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Boston Celtics fans have had to wait 16 seasons to see their franchise get back to the top of the basketball world. In between, they had two opportunities to win their 18th championship, but the Los Angeles Lakers (4-3) and the Golden State Warriors (4-2) stood in their way in the 2010 and 2022 NBA Finals, respectively. Since the 2007-2008 title, their presence in the NBA Playoffs has been steady, except in 2013-2014.

The 106-88 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in Game 5 of the NBA Finals was the culmination of a near-perfect season for the Celtics. The team barely stumbled since the regular season began back in October 2023, even in the preseason. Hanging their 18th championship banner grants the Celtics the title of most successful franchise in NBA history. It was built from the ground up with an undisputed leader on the court, an effective supporting cast, strategy from the bench and a dominant home court advantage.

Jayson Tatum: The leader of the Celtics

Jayson Tatum was not named MVP of the regular season or the NBA Finals. Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets) beat out Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Oklahoma City Thunder) and Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks) for the regular season award, while his teammate Jaylen Brown received the distinction of the Finals, although Tatum's name was on the short list of candidates for both.

However, Tatum's year was noteworthy, both in the regular season and the playoffs and, therefore, in the NBA Finals. No one on the Celtics roster was able to match or even come close to, the overall numbers put up by Tatum. He is the star of the franchise, the undisputed leader.

Tatum, born in Missouri in 1998 (26 years old), has played seven seasons for the Celtics and in the NBA. During the regular season, he averaged 26.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists in the 74 games he played. It was not his top regular season in terms of scoring or rebounds, but it was in assists.

In the 19 games he played in the playoffs, from the first game of the first round to the last game of the Finals, he recorded statistics similar to those in the regular season: 25 points, 9.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists.

If he continues at this pace with the Celtics, it will put him in an exclusive club with legends such as Bill Russell, Larry Bird, John Havlicek, Bob Cousy and Paul Pierce, among others.

Jaylen Brown: A deserving NBA Finals MVP

The Celtics’ main duo is colloquially referred to as the “Jays.” That tandem is made up of Tatum and Jaylen Brown. While the former may be their star, it is the latter who saves the day when Tatum falls flat.

What is certain is that Brown was better than his teammate in the last five games of the season, which is why he has deservedly received the distinction of MVP of the NBA Finals, averaging 20.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 5 assists.

Throughout the playoffs, the Celtics second fiddle put up a stat line of 23.9 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.3 assists. In the regular season, he scored 23 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 70 games played.

Born in Georgia in 1996 (he turns 28 in October), Brown was selected No. 3 overall in the draft by the Celtics and, since then, he has not worn a jersey other than green and white. It remains to be seen if the “Jays” will go down in history as one of the NBA’s great duos?

A balanced roster

Going back through the years, in almost every season since the beginning of the 21st century, the NBA champion has been the most balanced roster in the league. For example, the Golden State Warriors with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and company; the San Antonio Spurs with Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and the appearance, later, of Kawhi Leonard; or the Los Angeles Lakers, who once had players of the caliber of Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and Pau Gasol, among others, on their roster. That is precisely what has happened with the Celtics this year.

Despite having one of the most expensive teams in the NBA, the Celtics’ front office managed to put together a roster that prioritized the team over individuality. Individual goals, on many occasions, penalize the team as a whole.

The support from capable role players like Kristaps Porzingis, Jrue Holiday, Derrick White and Al Horford, whether in the regular season or the playoffs, helped the team be crowned NBA champions and put the Celtics at the top of the league's history.

What remains to be seen is whether this squad will be able to emulate the dynastic dominance of the Lakers, the Spurs and the Warriors in different stages of the 21st century, winning several titles in short periods of time.

Joe Mazzulla and the most effective strategy of the season

Generally, the players are the ones who get the praise and applause when a franchise succeeds, with little regard for those behind the scenes. However, on this occasion, just as happened with Steve Kerr when he won four rings in eight seasons with the Warriors, Joe Mazzulla’s name must be highlighted.

The Celtics coach, 35, became the youngest to win the championship since Bill Russell in 1969, also with the Celtics. At that time, the legend was also 35 years old.

The strategy designed by Mazzulla was one of the Celtics' main keys. With an overwhelming offensive game plan, the team surpassed the 100-point barrier in all but four games between the regular season and the playoffs: against the Los Angeles Clippers (96 points), the Milwaukee Bucks (91), the Cleveland Cavaliers (94) and the Mavericks in the Finals (84).

Aside from his direction, Mazzulla achieved more popularity when he talked about his values and beliefs, which he puts above things such as his race or his skin color, in a press conference prior to a Finals game.

TD Garden was a fortress

It is correct to hold the players and Mazzulla responsible for the Celtics' historic victory. But the fans who supported the team also deserve mention. Approximately half of the games that the team played from October to yesterday have come at TD Garden. The connection between the players and the fans turned the venue into a fortress.

In the 2023-2024 season and playoffs, the Celtics only lost six games at TD Garden: four in the regular season (against the Denver Nuggets, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks) and two in the playoffs (against the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers).