Five reasons the Celtics are about to win the title. Plus, who will NBA Finals MVP?

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We need my thoughts on the record. I, Zach Harper, am not afraid to say it: AirCorg is a fraud. I love dogs, but that Corgi is a fraud.

Title Time?

Five reasons Boston is about to win a ring

Tonight, the Celtics have a great chance to culminate their seven-year journey of the Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown duo trying to bring the Larry O’Brien trophy back to Boston. We don’t have to rehash the improbability of the Mavericks making this a series, let alone becoming the first team to overcome a 3-0 deficit. The Celtics are going to win the title. And, yes, their pathway to the finals was a bit of a joke due to injuries, but they’ve put that notion to bed by stomping down an excellent Mavericks team whenever necessary to close games.

The Celtics were the best team in the regular season and have been one of the most dominant teams for any season in NBA history. Their regular-season margin of victory was the fifth-highest ever. The Celtics have the ninth-highest margin of victory over a playoff run. Oh, and they had the best offense in NBA history. The superlatives have been there all season, though many of us wondered if they’d finally come through and take home the title. They’re about to do just that.

Whether this ends tonight or early next week, here are the five reasons — ranging from roster construction to this series itself — Boston is going to win the title.

5. The others weren’t ready to play. When Luka Dončić wasn’t fouling out, he was trying to figure out ways to galvanize Dallas’ offense. Eventually, Kyrie Irving held up his end of the bargain in Game 3. For much of the series, though, we’ve seen role players like P.J. Washington, Derrick Jones Jr., Jaden Hardy, Maxi Kleber and Tim Hardaway Jr. be unreliable. You can’t beat Boston without “the others.” Just ask Caleb Martin.

4. Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving didn’t show up enough. Irving really struggled in the two games in Boston. Dončić has been so rough defensively and had some pretty terrible turnovers in key moments of Game 2. Then, he fouled out of Game 3 due to some really poor defensive decisions. The Mavericks needed these guys to be the duo we saw earlier in the playoffs, but the Celtics negated that.

3. The math problem is real when done correctly. The Celtics jack up a lot of 3-pointers. They hit the second-most in NBA history this season, missing the record by 12. That approach hasn’t changed against Dallas. Everybody in Boston’s rotation can shoot it – apparently Xavier Tillman can too. The Celtics have outscored the Mavericks by 32 total points in this series, winning games by 18, seven and seven, respectively. They are plus-63 points behind the 3-point line. You crunched those numbers correctly; they’ve made 21 more 3-pointers than the Mavs on 49 more attempts. Your scoring problem is real if you can’t stop them from letting it fly or shoot it with them.

2. They retooled but never panicked and uprooted the core. Through all of the forced debates about needing to break up Tatum and Brown, neither executives Danny Ainge nor Brad Stevens ever truly came close to doing it. We heard some Brown rumors over the years, but those trade talks always subsided. Instead, the Celtics brought in Derrick White. They brought back Al Horford. And then, they had a massive summer with acquiring Kristaps Porziņģis and Jrue Holiday. They believed in the vision, and it’s about to include a parade.

1. They’re really damn good. Let’s not forget that, while the path hasn’t exactly been tough for Boston to get to the finals, this team was the best in the league by a wide margin. Concerns were never about them being good enough, only if they’d get out of their own way in the biggest moments. They’ve done exactly that on this run. They’re 15-2 in the postseason so far. They’ve won 10 straight games. They haven’t lost in over a month. Schedule that ring ceremony for opening night. 🏆

Coaching Tea Leaves

Will Lakers, Cavaliers ever fill vacancies?

As Shams has reported for over a week – and reiterated yesterday – the Lakers are once again meeting with JJ Redick about their coaching job. He’s been the top choice for them for some time as they’ve zeroed in on finalizing the hiring process. Redick is in the unique position of calling the NBA Finals for ABC, an opportunity he unexpectedly found himself in this season once Doc Rivers left ESPN to take the Bucks’ job.

Given the Lakers’ recent interest in Dan Hurley, it’s fair to question if Redick will end up taking the job after the circus that just hit him. If Redick decided he feels slighted in some way about his candidacy being pushed aside for Hurley, I don’t think anybody would blame him. But there won’t be many more opportunities to coach LeBron James (we think …), so this may be the coaching job he feels he has to take.

All the while, it seems like former Hornets coach and Spurs assistant James Borrego is waiting in the wings for a decision. He could end up being the top choice for the Cavaliers’ coaching vacancy, but it’s very possible he sees the Lakers’ gig as a better situation for himself. If the Cavs do want Borrego but don’t end up wanting to be his second choice, then maybe they consider someone like former Nets coach and current Warriors assistant Kenny Atkinson or Nuggets assistant David Adelman as their next coach. Maybe the finals ending will give us much-needed clarity here.

Most Valuable Chatter

Who will win NBA Finals MVP honors?

Whether this ends after Game 4 or Game 5 (or maybe beyond by some Mavs miracle), the 2024 NBA Finals MVP race is pretty much down to two players. Our friends at BetMGM have six players on the board, but Dončić (+3000), Holiday (+6600), Irving (+20000) and White (+20000) are too far away to truly consider. This is down to Tatum and Brown, so who is going to walk away with this year’s Bill Russell finals MVP trophy?

Jaylen Brown (-350)

  • 2024 NBA Finals stats: 24.3 points | 6 rebounds | 5.7 assists | 2 steals | 1.3 blocks.
  • MVP case: Right now, Brown is the heavy favorite to take home the award, and I don’t think that’s necessarily wrong. Brown is also putting up 55.1/25/70 shooting splits, and the Celtics are plus-22 with him on the floor. His defense on Irving and mostly Dončić has been one of the most impressive performances on that end of the floor since Scottie Pippen was giving Magic Johnson the business in 1991.

Jayson Tatum (+275)

  • 2024 NBA Finals stats: 21.7 points | 8.7 rebounds | 7.3 assists | 0.7 steals | 0.3 blocks
  • MVP case: I actually don’t think Tatum has played as poorly as others say he has. As you can see from his 35.9/29.6/84.6 shooting splits, he’s shot the ball poorly, but the Celtics are plus-21 with Tatum on the floor.  He’s done a brilliant job distributing the ball and playing defense. His rebounding has been excellent. If he has a big closeout game tonight and Brown struggles at all, Tatum could swoop in and grab this honor.

Bounce Passes

Jared Weiss on the rise of “Mazzullaball” and how it’s bringing a title to Beantown.

Luka Dončić has learned the tough lesson about trying to win a title and what it takes.

Adam Silver thinks it “would have been nice” to have Caitlin Clark on Team USA.

(Top photo: Adam Glanzman  / Getty Images )

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