The Boston Celtics, to the NBA Finals

The Boston Celtics, to the NBA Finals
The Boston Celtics (Credit: Getty Images)

The NBA finals will begin on June 6 in Boston. The Celtics, the team that started as a favorite in all the pools at the beginning of the season, has quickly dispatched the Indiana Pacers, weakened by the injury of their star, Tyrese Haliburton. With their victory this Monday (102-105), they went 4-0 in the NBA Eastern Conference final and await their rival from the West, where Luka Dončić’s Dallas Mavericks have a 3-0 lead 0 and host the Minnesota Timberwolves at home this Tuesday.

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The Celtics have given the impression of not having to force the machine too much throughout the Eastern final, except perhaps in the first game, which the Pacers threw when they had almost won (three points in favor and possession with 10 seconds left). Those of Boston have missed their starting center, Kristaps Porziņģis, whose absence has allowed Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner to take over the area, but the talent of their three established all-stars (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Jrue Holiday), along with the reliable contribution of Derrick White and the benefits of veteran Al Horford, have been enough for them to impose their superiority.

Brown has been voted best player in the Eastern Conference finals. He scored the triple that gave the Celtics overtime in the first game, added 40 points in the second, and repeated as the game’s leading scorer in the fourth. Brown has taken five of the nine votes, while Tatum has had four.

Joe Mazulla, Boston’s coach, wins the East title in his second season leading the team. In the first, he was surprised by Erik Spoelstra’s Miami Heat. Now, the Celtics will want their 18th NBA title and the first since 2008. In doing so, they would be able to break in their favor the historic tie they maintain with the Lakers, who also have 17 titles between their time in Minnesota and Los Angeles. It is Boston’s second final in three years. In 2022 they lost to the Golden State Warriors.

The first half of this Monday’s game was very even. After a first quarter of 27-29 in favor of the Celtics, at halftime, it was 57-58. Boston’s team had started with more accuracy in the three-pointers, but they closed the first half with a success rate of 40%, the same as the Pacers. The Celtics’ advantage in steals was offset by the Pacers with more rebounds. And to the greater success in shots of two of the visitors, the locals responded with a better percentage in free throws. To Jayson Tatum’s 16 points, Andre Nembhard responded with as many in the first half.

The Canadian, acting as a replacement for the injured Haliburton, has shown that he can lead the team with solvency. In the third game, he broke his career points record, although late-game errors marred his brilliant performance. Even so, without the starting point guard, Indiana’s rotation suffers.

The Pacers took the lead in the 3rd quarter, in part thanks to the Celtics starting to miss almost all of their 3-pointers. Brown took over from Tatum in the scoring role, while Obi Toppin successfully replaced Myles Turner, who committed 4 fouls in the third set (3 of them in one minute, after which he was substituted, and the fourth, shortly afterward to return to the field) that conditioned those from Indiana. At the final stage of the game, it was entered with 83-80 in favor of the Pacers. Swords were raised.

The Indiana team came out determined not to let their wallets be stolen again in the last stretch of the game, but they did not succeed. With Nembhard as a guide and an enthusiastic TJ McConnell, they reached 94-85, their biggest difference of the game, with less than nine minutes left, and they maintained a considerable advantage (98-90) at less than six. The Celtics revved up their engine in both hoops and tied it (102-102) with two and a half minutes remaining. Nembhart’s shakiness began again, with turnovers and missed shots on the following possessions. A three-pointer by Derrick White with 44 seconds left put the Celtics three points ahead. The Canadian from Indiana failed from the 3-point line again when trying to equalize. Then, Tatum tried to finish with another triple. He missed, but the Celtics grabbed the rebound and the Pacers were eliminated.

If the Pacers have something to blame themselves for, it does not know how to manage the end of the game. The question remains whether his inexperience has weighed more or whether the Celtics have only played their best when they needed to. Except for the second game, where they won with authority, in the other three they seemed at the mercy of the Pacers shortly before the end. This Monday they did not score a single point in the last three and a half minutes.

Jaylen Brown was the leading scorer in the fourth game, with 29 points, to which he added 6 rebounds and 2 assists. Tatum finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists, while Jrue Holiday added 17 points and Derrick White 16, including the final triple. For the Pacers, Nembhard was the top scorer with 24 points, 6 rebounds, and 10 assists, but his final errors once again spoiled his game. Siakam added 19 points and McConnell 15.

This Tuesday, the Dallas Mavericks will have the opportunity at home to close the Western final against the Minnesota Timberwolves who have shown themselves incapable of stopping the attack led by Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. In any case, it will be an unprecedented final for the NBA, since the Celtics have not faced Dallas in any of their 22 finals.

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