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How Warriors had their fingerprints all over Celtics' 2024 NBA Championship

Danny Emerman, The Mercury News on

Published in Basketball

Standing atop pieces of green and white confetti on the TD Garden parquet floor, a relieved Jayson Tatum shook his head.

“What they gonna say now? What they gonna say now?” Tatum said before later repeating the phrase while celebrating with his mother.

Sounds familiar.

Two years earlier, in the same building, a champagne-soaked Steph Curry screamed to his teammates in the visitor’s locker room.

“What are they gonna say now?” Curry said. “What are they gonna say now?”

A plagiarized celebration isn’t the only way Curry and the Golden State Warriors influenced the Boston Celtics — a team built around a homegrown core supplemented by shrewd trades that grew together, fell short together, and finally broke through together. The 2024 champion Celtics learned from losing the 2022 NBA Finals to the Warriors, and in many respects mirrored them in reaching the mountaintop.

Perhaps the most apt historical comparison to the 2024 Celtics might just be the 2015 Warriors. Including the postseason, Boston finished 80-21; the Warriors were 83-20. Each was the first title of a core.

Those Warriors went 67-15 in the regular season, lapping the Western Conference. These Celtics went 64-18, winning the East by 14 games and spending the last month of the year on cruise control.

The Celtics’ two best players, Finals MVP Jaylen Brown and Tatum, are at similar stages in their careers as the Warriors’ stars were. Brown and Tatum are 26 and 25 years old; Steph Curry was 26 in 2015, while Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were 24.

In 2015, believe it or not, there were real questions from the basketball world about whether a “jump-shooting team” could win a title. For the past seven years, the basketball community has questioned the fit of Tatum and Brown and whether they could complement each other enough to win a championship.

Tatum and Brown are outstanding, but the Celtics don’t have a generational player like Curry. But they injected strands of the DNA from great championship teams of yesteryear, like the Warriors: unselfishness, trust and sacrifice.

 

Like the 2015 Warriors, the Celtics got it done with elite spacing and switchable defense. In their version of the “death lineup,” Boston had five players on the floor capable of outside shooting, playmaking, and guarding multiple positions.

Boston took the pace-and-space ethos the Warriors revolutionized and turned the dial all the way up. In recording the most efficient offense in league history, the Celtics took a record 3,482 3-pointers per game — over 200 more than any other team.

Boston even cherry-picked some strategy from the Warriors. As Warriors analyst Joe Viray pointed out, one way the Celtics earned mismatches in the halfcourt was by running Golden State-esque split actions and slipping toward the rim. Boston didn’t use the post as a playmaking hub like the Warriors, but still found ways to create inside-out opportunities.

The Celtics learned from their loss to the Warriors in the 2022 Finals and applied it.

As in 2015, the Finals MVP went not to the winning team’s best overall player, but to the wing who defended the best player on the other side. For the Warriors, that was Andre Iguodala. For the Celtics, it was Brown, who held Luka Doncic to a measly 84.8 offensive rating in the 154 possessions he defended him. Brown also supplied excellent offensive performances in the first three games, but Tatum led Boston in playoff points, rebounds and assists.

The Celtics are poised to bring their gang back together, just like the Warriors did. Based on their payroll and the current collective bargaining agreement, there’s not going to be a Kevin Durant-like acquisition for them to make.

They’re not going to have the same run Golden State did. Probably not even close.

But what are they gonna say next?

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©2024 MediaNews Group, Inc. Visit at mercurynews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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