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5 Keys For The Celtics to Win The NBA Finals 

Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Derrick White are all keys for the Celtics to win the NBA finals.

With the NBA Finals tipping off this Thursday it’s time to start breaking down the matchup from all angles. The Celtics have been dominant throughout the season highlighted by the fourth-best net rating of all time and a 64-18 season record. As a result, DraftKings lists the Celtics as -210 favorites to win the series. Let’s dive into five keys for the Celtics to win the title.

5 Keys For The Celtics to Win The NBA Finals

1. Porzingis’ Health 

Kristaps Porzingis has been out with a calf soleus since late April. This has given Porzingis five weeks off allowing him to fully recover. Ultimately, Porzingis’ health and production could make or break their success in the finals. Porzingis has been a vital part of Boston’s success on both ends of the floor all season long. Giving the Celtics an efficient interior scorer and lob threat as well as a versatile rim protector. In this series, Porzingis will be particularly important in defending the Mavericks’ pick-n-roll and containing their lob threats Dereck Lively and Daniel Gafford.

Porzingis’ return will also slide Al Horford back to the bench giving the Celtics’ bench a much-needed boost. Notably, the Celtics have struggled with their bench all season ranking 26th in bench points in the regular season and 11th in the playoffs. Getting quality production out of their bench would be a massive difference-maker for the Celtics. It’s worth noting in four playoff games Porzingis is averaging 12 points, 5 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1.3 steals on .389, .400, .929 shooting spilts. While these numbers are a significant departure from his regular season stats Porzingis’ impact and court presence will still be vital for the Celtics. Furthermore, these numbers are likely to improve if Porzingis is fully healthy. 

2. Find an Answer to Luka and Kyrie 

It might be impossible to truly stop Luka and Kyrie. This elite backcourt is the best in the league and one of the best backcourts of all time. However, the Celtics’ ability to contain them will be central to their success in this series. Crucially the Celtics have the best defensive backcourt in the league with White and Holiday. The Celtics could also use Brown or Tatum on Luka for extra size.

In the regular season, Brown spent the most time guarding Luka and held him to 40 percent shooting from the field. Tatum didn’t spend much time on Luka but was similarly effective in the limited time he guarded Doncic. Look for the Js to spend a lot of time guarding Luka. While Holiday and White will mostly guard Kyrie as they are more equipped to contain his speed. Holiday will likely guard Luka more than White due to his elite strength. Consistently giving both Luka and Kyrie different looks will be essential for the Celtics’ defensive success.

The combination of the Js and the backcourt duo gives the Celtics the ideal personnel to do this. Pressuring Luka and Kyrie will also be a strategy to watch. At the same time, the Celtics need to recover on rotations and make sure the Mavs’ role players don’t get open looks. One interesting thing to watch for is the corner threes battle. The Mavericks lead the playoffs in corner three attempts per game this has allowed role players such as PJ Washington to have big shooting nights. While the Celtics give up the least amount of corner threes in the league which will certainly benefit them against the Mavs.  

This contrast will be interesting to watch throughout the series and could change the outcome in either direction. Ultimately, defending against Luka and Kyrie is an impossible challenge and you’ll always give up. However, the Celtics defense will be the toughest matchup the Mavs have faced in the playoffs. 

3. Win Clutch Time Minutes 

Clutch time has been a leading concern for the Celtics all season long. Boston ranked 4th in clutch time win percentage. The Mavs ranked 6th in clutch time win percentage. In the playoffs, the Celtics are first in clutch time win percentage and third in clutch points. While the Mavs are third in clutch win percentage and seventh in clutch points. However, blown leads and sloppy offense have occurred in several Celtics regular season games. Jayson Tatum has also been in-efficient in the clutch this year despite having big-time playoff moments throughout his career. Furthermore, Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are two of the best closers in the league. The Mavericks have played in close games all playoffs long and have tons of clutch-time experience. They have nine clutch-time playoff games compared to Boston’s four. 

The Celtics have a plethora of options in the clutch even outside of Tatum. The combination of Jaylen Brown, Jrue Holiday, Derrick White, and Porzingis gives the Celtics unlimited offensive options. Brown in particular has proven to be very effective in closing games and has elevated his game in the playoffs. It will also benefit the Celtics that they won several close games against the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, it will be interesting to see who the Celtics go to in the clutch and how they handle the Mavs’ two elite closers. 

4. Superstar Js 

In the regular season, both Tatum and Brown had plenty of success against the Mavericks. The Celtics were 2-0 in the regular season against the Mavericks winning the first game by 19 and the second by 28. Notably, only one of these games was the Mavericks  In these games, Tatum averaged 35 points, 9.5 rebounds while Brown averaged 29 points and 5 rebounds. Derrick Jones Jr. and Washington will have to defend the Js. While the two are quality defenders, especially Jones, this is a clear advantage for the Celtics. Brown in particular will have a massive advantage with Washington likely guarding him. Also, look for the Celtics to force Luka and Kyrie onto the Js.

Throughout the playoffs, both Tatum and Brown have played at a very high level. Brown has been playing at a superstar level averaging 25 points, and 6.1 rebounds on .541, .368, .630 shooting spilts. In the playoffs, Tatum’s scoring efficiency has dipped, averaging 26 points, on .442, .290, .845 shooting splits. However, he has still managed to make a high-level all-around impact as evidenced by his 10.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game.

The Celtics will need both wing stars to be aggressive and efficient. At the same time, they will need a balanced offensive attack with strong ball movement. The Mavericks’ defense has improved from 18th in the regular season to 7th in the playoffs however, they have yet to play an offense at the level of the Celtics. Look for the Celtics to take advantage of their favorable matchups on the wing and for the Mavs’ defense to possibly regress to their regular season level. Ultimately the Celtics will need one or both of these stars to play at an elite level during the finals and this matchup heavily favors Boston. 

5. Pick-And-Roll defense 

Pick-and-roll play could make or break this series in either direction. The Mavericks’ offense revolves around the pick-and-roll as Luka uses it to create easy shots for himself and his teammates. The Mavericks were able to expose the Timberwolves defense through countless pick-and-roll actions. There proved to be no easy answer, you can’t play drop coverage or Luka would shoot a lightly contested jumper you can’t hedge or blitz because Luka would find the open man. In the playoffs, Dallas leads the league in alley-oops by a wide margin and is approaching historical territory with their usage of the play. It will be crucial for the Celtics to contain the Mavs’ lob threats and alley-oops in constant pick-and-roll actions. Notably, the Celtics pick-and-roll defense dropped from 4th in the regular season to 12th in the playoffs.

A big reason for this has been the absence of Porzingis. Teams have targeted Horford on defense and the Celtics’ pick-and-roll particularly struggles defending the roll men and lob threats. As a result, Porzingis’ return and defensive impact will be even more important. On paper though, the Celtics have the defensive personnel to contain the Mavericks pick-and-roll game. White and Holiday’s elite perimeter defense and quick recovery times will be central to Boston’s ability to stop the pick-and-roll. Additionally, Tatum and Brown’s wing defense combined with their size and strength gives the Celtics another possible solution.


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