Celtics aim to show they learned from 2022 NBA Finals (2024)

The Athletic has live coverage of Celtics vs. Mavericks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals

BOSTON — There was a championship celebrated on the parquet court inside TD Garden just two years ago.

Only, it wasn’t the Boston Celtics doing the celebrating, but the Golden State Warriors — who defeated the C’s in six games to settle the 2022 NBA Finals.


“I hate that I had to go through it. I wish we would have won,” Celtics star Jayson Tatum said Wednesday, on the eve of the 2024 finals.

Boston is back in business, getting set to host the Dallas Mavericks at 8:30 p.m. ET Thursday in Game 1, two years after the Tatum-Jaylen Brown nucleus fell on its face in the duo’s first finals together.

The Celtics are not exactly the same team they were in the 2022 finals, but most of the important pieces are still intact, with Tatum and Brown leading the way. As Boston and the Mavericks addressed reporters during finals media day Wednesday at TD Garden, the Celtics’ recent finals experience — and the benefit it could provide them over the next three weeks — was a main topic of discussion.

Most of the Celtics who will take the floor Thursday have been in the finals before, hoping that the pain they experienced at the hands of the Warriors was needed so that they can win this time.

“I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason,” said Tatum, who averaged 26.9 points this season and is scoring 26.0 points per game in the playoffs. “There’s a lesson to be learned in every situation. I do feel a lot different this time, this go-around, two years later. I’m excited for the opportunity for us to get the job done.”

The Celtics and Lakers are tied for the most championships in NBA history (17), but Boston’s last finals triumph was in 2008, when Tatum was 10 years old. Brown, who has one more year of NBA service than Tatum, has been a part of six Celtics teams to reach the conference finals in eight years. Only twice has the duo gotten to the finals.

Derrick White played serious minutes for Boston’s last finals team, as did Al Horford and Payton Pritchard. Joe Mazzulla was an assistant coach for Boston in 2022. Brad Stevens was in his first season as team executive, having been elevated from his post as head coach.


After falling in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals last May, Stevens added Jrue Holiday — a champion in 2021 with the Milwaukee Bucks — and former Dallas center Kristaps Porziņģis over the offseason. Together, this group blew the rest of the NBA away to the tune of 64 regular-season wins, the most in the league.

Though they might disagree with this assessment, the Celtics have largely gone untested in the playoffs, facing three opponents missing their best player for some or all of each series. For a team as good as Boston, with as much pedigree and experience as the Celtics have, the finals are a referendum on whether they “work,” and if Tatum and Brown can win the ultimate prize together.

“I think it’s a fair question. I think it’s fair to say that it does affect you being embraced versus being scrutinized,” said Brown, who was voted MVP for the Celtics’ Eastern Conference finals win over Indiana.

“You get to a point where it’s like you get scrutinized enough for a large part of your career, it becomes normal,” Brown continued. “Then it just rolls off you. For me, at least, I can say — I don’t know if Jayson feels the same way — it’s kind of been that (way) my whole career in a sense.”

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The Mavericks entered the postseason as the No. 5 seed in the West, and as a group this is the farthest Dallas has been in the playoffs. Luka Dončić dragged the Mavs to the Western Conference finals in 2022, where they were easily dismissed by those same Warriors who bested Boston in the finals.

Dallas coach Jason Kidd won a championship as a player with the Mavs in 2011 — the last time the franchise reached the championship round — and collected a ring as an assistant coach with the Lakers in 2020. Kyrie Irving, one of two Mavs stars, won in 2016 with Cleveland.

But in both Kidd and Irving’s case, as players, they lost in the finals before they could win one.


“Yeah, I think you do have to experience it,” Kidd said. “I think that’s the nicer way to accept losing, is that you have to go through it. It’s a graceful way to accept losing. But you do have to, again, go through defeat to understand that bad taste, how do you feel, how does it make you feel, to work on your game, to get better.

“Jayson and Brown have gone through defeat,” Kidd continued. “We also lost to the Warriors, too, that year. The Warriors are really good. … That tandem (Tatum and Brown), they’re playing at an extremely high level and we got our work cut out.

“But they’ve been here. Some of us for the Mavs have been here, some of us haven’t. We’re going to embrace that and find a way to hopefully win a series.”

Required reading

  • Celtics vs. Mavericks: How this intriguing NBA Finals matchup will be won on the court
  • Five things the Celtics need to win the Finals. Plus, the Lakers’ new best-case scenario
  • Al Horford’s secret to NBA longevity: Advice from Tom Brady, diet and toe stretches

(Photo: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

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Joe Vardon is a senior NBA writer for The Athletic, based in Cleveland. Follow Joe on Twitter @joevardon

Celtics aim to show they learned from 2022 NBA Finals (2024)


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