The Boston Celtics had the tools to beat the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 NBA Finals, but inexperience cost them. Despite being among the best defensive teams in the league, youth was ultimately their demise as that lack of experience led to countless errors in the biggest games of their careers. If the Celtics can just improve what’s already there, they could be right back in the Finals.
Heading into the NBA Finals, no player on the Celtics’ roster had experience at that level. The Warriors’ roster, on the other hand, played a combined 123 Finals games and won three championships together. Analytics favored the Celtics — and a simulator even gave them an 80% chance to win — but it was always going to be an uphill battle against the NBA’s latest dynasty.
The agony of a championship loss, however, should be a valuable teacher for Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Boston.
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How The Celtics Can Win The 2023 NBA Finals
In the Finals, the Celtics coughed up the ball 97 times in six games. Against one of the best teams in decades, that simply can’t happen.
Boston had ugly stretches of basketball in the last two rounds of the playoffs, leading to game-changing runs by both the Warriors and Miami Heat. As is often the case across all sports, the Celtics had much more success when they took care of the ball on offense. In losses, it seemed more like the team beat itself as opposed to the other team being better.
That issue was most apparent with Tatum. Their young star set an NBA record with a whopping 100 turnovers through all four rounds of the playoffs.
After Boston took a surprising 2-1 lead in the Finals, Tatum was responsible for 15 turnovers over the next three games, all Golden State victories. Coupled with his uncharacteristically poor shooting numbers, it was a recipe for disaster. In fact, it can be argued the previous round wouldn’t have gone to seven games if Tatum just did what was expected of him. At least two of the team’s three losses to the Heat can be attributed to Tatum’s carelessness with the ball.
The Growth of Jayson Tatum
As previously mentioned, Tatum’s ball security was historically bad in the playoffs. If he were at least still lighting up the scoreboard and the Celtics won a championship, that might be forgiven. Unfortunately, Tatum looked more like a shell of himself for most of the playoffs. After he dominated the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, fans and members of the media were quick to declare Tatum had risen to the upper echelon of the league. Since then, he’s shown there’s still work to be done.
While Tatum did shoot a remarkable 45.5% from three-point range in the Finals, he shot just 36.7% from the field overall and 65.5% from the free throw line. In his career so far, those numbers are 45.6% and 84.4%, respectively. For someone who wants to one day be recognized as one of the league’s best players, a dip in performance like that when the lights are brightest is unacceptable. Tatum knows that, and will likely go into the 2022 season an improved player.
With the addition of veteran point guard Malcolm Brogdon, the Celtics have shown that they’re trying to remedy their shortcomings. It’s now up to Tatum to take that next step and become a true superstar.