Celtics focused on just two more numbers entering NBA Finals



Those are the two numbers on which the Boston Celtics are focused.

Four more victories earn the Celtics their 18th NBA championship which would break a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for most in league history.

The Celtics are in the NBA Finals for the first time since losing to the Golden State Warriors in 2022 and are trying to win the franchise’s first title since 2008. This is the second-longest stretch in team history without a championship, short of the title-less window between 1987 and 2007.

This Finals appearance is made possible by a strong effort in the Eastern Conference playoffs, eliminating Miami in five games, Cleveland in five games and Indiana in four games. Boston finished off the Indiana Pacers with a 105-102 victory in Game 4 on Monday.

Indiana was in three of the four games, but Boston had too much offense and too much defense in the final minutes. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum were fantastic, Derrick White and Jrue Holiday form the best two-way backcourt in the league and Al Horford, starting for the injured Kristaps Porzingis, is experienced and reliable.

The Celtics are 12-2 in the postseason and have won seven consecutive games, and 11 of 12 in the playoffs. They have handled business despite a hiccup or two.

But this is where the Celtics were supposed to be. They are the No.  1 seed in the East, finished with a league-best 64 victories and they were expected to be in this position.

Of course, getting to the Finals is simply not enough, not for the franchise and not for this team. ‘I don’t know if celebrate is the right word,’ White said after eliminating the Pacers.

He’s right. For this team, winning the East is just a step.

Through various ownership groups, the Celtics are committed to contending. This ownership group, led by Wyc Grousbeck and Steve Pagliuca, are invested. Owners have given president of basketball operations Brad Stevens room to maneuver via trades and money to spend, and Stevens has assembled a team that finished with the NBA’s best regular-season record at 64-18 and have the best starting five in the league when Kristaps Porzingis (injured calf but expected back soon) is in the lineup.

This is Boston’s reality: anything short of a championship will be a disappointment.

‘Our mindset is very clear,’ Horford said. ‘We need to finish.’

The Celtics will play either the Dallas Mavericks or Minnesota Timberwolves in the Finals, and the Mavs are the likely opponent given their 3-0 series lead.

Since Brown was drafted in 2016 and Tatum in 2017, the Celtics have reached the conference finals six times, including this season. In the five previous conference finals, they caught the Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James 2.0 in 2017 and 2018, lost to the Heat in the grueling 2020 Orlando bubble, got to the Finals in 2022 and lost to Miami last season. They also lost to Milwaukee in the second round in 2019 and Brooklyn in the first round in 2021.

They’ve been through different coaches. First Brad Stevens, then Ime Udoka and now Joe Mazzulla. When Stevens moved to the front office, he has tinkered with the roster. The White, Holiday and Porzingis acquisitions made the Celtics even better.

Finishing the deal has been a problem, and it’s a narrative that has built and built and now envelops this team. It’s not easy. Great teams and great players have fallen short.

This is the Celtics’ best, most talented team of the past eight seasons. Do they have what it takes to win an NBA title? Four and 18, in the sporting sense, is all that matters for the Celtics.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY