Boston Celtics Closing Out All-Time Great Playoff Run

It takes 16 playoff wins to take home the NBA championship, and the Boston Celtics now have 15. With a commanding 3-0 lead over the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals, the Celtics are a cinch to win their 18th NBA title.

As has been mentioned ad nauseam, and even with these Celtics during the Eastern Conference Finals last month, no team in NBA history has blown a 3-0 series lead. The 2023-24 Celtics are not about to become the first.

Boston has been the best team all season long, and this is one the best playoff runs in the history of the NBA.

Boston is 15-2 in these playoffs, and their current win streak is at 10. If they close out the series with a Game 4 win on Friday, that will be an 11th straight win. Only the San Antonio Spurs in 1998-99 will have had a longer winning streak in a single playoffs at 12. The Detroit Pistons (1989 and 1990 playoffs) and Los Angeles Lakers (2000 and 2001 playoffs) had 12-game winning streaks that extended over more than one playoff season.

No team has gone 16-0 in the playoffs, but the 2016-17 Golden State Warriors finished 16-1. Prior to 2003, the first round of the playoffs was best-of-five, so it took 15 wins for an NBA championship. The 2000-01 Lakers went 15-1 under that format. Following the 1982-83 season, the Philadelphia 76ers went 12-1, back when the top two seeds received first round byes.

And that is the extent of one-loss NBA championship teams. Just those three teams. If the Celtics win on Friday, they will finish 16-2 in the 2024 NBA Playoffs, which will rank fourth all-time in postseason winning percentage.

The previous best for a Celtics championship team was the 1985-86 team that went 15-3 and beat the Houston Rockets in the Finals in six games.

Dallas Hoping to Make History

As Dereck Lively said in his Game 3 postgame press conference, “We just gotta make history. We have to go out there and play like our lives are on the line.”

Luka Dončić said, “It’s not over til it’s over. We just gotta believe. Like I always say, it’s the first to four. We’ve got to stay together. We lost together, we win together. So we gotta stay together.”

These are, of course, all the right things to say. It’s another thing to do them. The reality that Dallas faces is that when back at home, and with Boston missing Kristaps Porziņģis, they still fell behind by as much as 21 points in the fourth quarter.

The Mavs get credit for mounting a furious comeback late in the game and getting back to within a point, but then Dončić fouled out. From that moment forward, the game was over. Dončić said of the officiating, “Six fouls in the NBA Finals? Come on, man. Be better than that.”

But he needs to be better. Some of the fouls were questionable, but a couple of the fouls he took were foolish. The Celtics are now -3500 to win the series, in large part because Dončić hasn’t been the best player on the floor. He’s missing free throws, committing turnovers, and taking fouls that hurt his team. The sixth foul called on Dončić was close. But when you are playing with five fouls and the only way your team can win is if you remain in the game, don’t make it close. Be better.

The Mavericks were two-point favorites in Game 3, and failed to cover the spread for the third straight game. In Friday’s Game 4, they are one-point favorites. But as for winning four-straight games and making NBA history, that’s not a bet even Mark Cuban would make.

NBA Finals MVP Odds

Jaylen Brown has been fantastic for the Celtics, scoring 22, 21, and 30 points in the three games. In Game 3, Brown finished with 30 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists, joining Hall of Famer John Havlicek as the only Celtics to go 30-8-8 in the NBA Finals.

Brown is the favorite to be the Finals MVP, paying -280.

Jayson Tatum was also great in Game 3, finishing with 31 points, six rebounds, and five assists. A Tatum Finals MVP pays +250. No other Celtic is closer than +7500.

Dončić is +2200 to win the Finals MVP award, and Kyrie Irving, who scored 35 points in the Game 3 loss, is at +9000.

It is not too early for the city of Boston to begin plans for the championship parade.

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