NBA Finals: Key Factors as Celtics Aim to Close Out Mavericks

Closing out an NBA team on its home court is notoriously challenging, a sentiment echoed by many former champions. The Boston Celtics have cruised through the 2024 postseason, losing only twice thanks to their depth, solid play on both ends, and some fortuitous injuries to other teams.

Yet, completing a sweep of the Dallas Mavericks in Game 4 (8:30 ET, ABC) of the NBA Finals presented by YouTube TV on Friday could be their toughest task yet.

Here’s what might challenge the Celtics:

  • A determined Luka Doncic
  • Kyrie Irving finding his rhythm
  • Mavericks’ supporting cast stepping up
  • The rarity of sweeps in the Finals

Despite these challenges, the Celtics have plenty of reasons to be confident, led by Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and their ability to adapt to the potential absence or limitations of an injured Kristaps Porzingis.

The Hunger Game for the Celtics

It’s natural for teams to relax when they are on the verge of victory. The Celtics almost fell victim to this when they nearly squandered a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter on Wednesday. If Boston can’t maintain their intensity, Game 4 could swing in favor of the Mavericks, sending the series back to Boston.

Dallas will likely be desperate to win, focusing on rebounds, tight defense, and easier shots. Players like Dereck Lively II and Daniel Gafford, who have been neutralized so far, will need to step up.

“Just because we’re down 3-0, it’s not finished,” Lively stated. “We need to leave everything on the floor, win the small battles, like rebounding and transition, to give ourselves a chance.”

If the Celtics match this intensity, their superior talent will likely prevail. But human nature often complicates such scenarios.

“We’re just locked in,” said guard Derrick White. “We understand that close-out games are the toughest, and we bring an extra edge.”

Jaylen Brown’s Remarkable Year

Jaylen Brown’s last 12 months have been nothing short of transformative. Despite missing out on All-NBA teams and the 2024 Olympic Team, Brown has thrived. He signed the richest contract in NBA history, was named the most outstanding player of the Eastern Conference Finals, and is a favorite for the Finals MVP.

Brown, often overshadowed by Tatum, is now pushing to be recognized among the league’s elite players. His consistent and outstanding performance has been crucial for the Celtics, and he shows no signs of slowing down.

Kyrie Irving’s Leadership

Kyrie Irving knows how to win under pressure. He has helped a team rally from a 3-1 deficit to win a championship and hit one of the most memorable shots in NBA Finals history. This season, he has showcased maturity and wisdom, providing a calming influence for the Mavericks.

Irving, not Doncic, has emerged as the steadier presence in the Mavericks’ backcourt. While Doncic has struggled with injuries and referees, Irving has taken accountability and pledged to improve.

“There are a lot of first-timers on this stage,” Irving noted. “I’ve been offering advice to Luka and reminding him that he’s not alone. He’s given his all despite the circumstances, and it’s not all on him.”

Potential X-Factors

Derrick White has been crucial for the Celtics, performing well on both ends of the floor and stepping up in critical moments. His confidence and trust in his abilities have been a massive advantage for Boston.

Other potential Game 4 contributors include Derrick Jones Jr., who has been quiet this series but has the capability to make significant plays. With free agency looming, he has every incentive to prove his worth.

Dereck Lively II could be a game-changer with his rebounding and defensive presence, especially if Porzingis is unable to play. Lively’s double-double performance in Game 3 shows his potential impact.

Sam Hauser’s shooting could also stretch the Mavericks’ defense, giving Tatum and Brown more room to operate. His nine-point performance in Game 3 demonstrated his ability to contribute significantly.

In conclusion, while the Celtics have a clear path to their 18th championship, the Mavericks’ potential for a comeback, driven by key players like Doncic and Irving, and contributions from their supporting cast, could make Game 4 an exciting battle.

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