Fatal Flaw? How Celtics Could Choke In NBA Finals Vs. Mavericks

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Look, it’s not like we expect the Celtics to lose their NBA Finals matchup with the Dallas Mavericks. The heavily favored C’s should finally break through and secure this core’s first Larry O’Brien Trophy over the next few weeks.

Jayson Tatum and company are the best team in the NBA, and they have been all season. The Celtics owned the NBA’s best record by a comfortable margin. They won 14 more games than the Mavericks, the Western Conference’s fifth-seeded team. They have the league’s best, deepest roster. They are uniquely positioned to defend the Mavs’ two-headed monster of Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving. And after winning 12 of their 14 playoff games to this point, they could also be getting back Kristaps Porzingis for the Finals.

When you start to lay it all out, not only is it easy to see why they are heavy -220 favorites to win the series, but it makes you believe that anything short of glory would be, well, a choke.

NESN.com’s Mike Cole and Ricky Doyle both said this week on “The Spread” podcast that they believe the Celtics should make relatively quick work of Dallas in the NBA Finals. A failure to do so, in their opinion, would be a massive disappointment for these Celtics, and it’s even hard to picture a scenario in which that does happen.

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How would that happen? And what is Boston’s fatal flaw? The two put their heads together and tried to come up with a doomsday scenario for the Green.

“I don’t think they have one (fatal flaw), period,” Cole remarked. “I think it’s a combination of a few things — so is that cheating the question? I think it’s three life-threatening flaws that add up to one fatal flaw, maybe. I still have questions about (Celtics head coach Joe) Mazzulla. Maybe that’s a thing, but is Jason Kidd that much better of a coach than he is? I don’t know. I also think, say something nice about Joe Mazzulla, he’s outcoached his opposition to this point.

” … Tied to that, the proclivity to shoot 3-pointers at an ungodly rate despite the fact they have guys who can get their own shot closer to the rim – that’s a Mazzulla thing, so these things are kind of intertwined. … Seven-game series, if they don’t fall three of four nights, all of a sudden you’ve got some problems, right?”

Doyle agreed with that take, wondering what happens if the threes aren’t falling, and the Celtics get into a rock fight where late-game possessions mean even more.

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“The general organizational philosophy of it, like, the most important stat being 3-point attempts and whether that comes back to bite them when they play a team that has that sort of killer instinct that some of these teams haven’t had because of injury,” Doyle said. “I kind of equate it to a run n’ gun, high-flying team running into an SEC defense or something and all of a sudden the game looks completely different. Can Dallas slow it down to a level that the Celtics are a little bit uncomfortable? … In late-game situations, that offense can get stagnant.”

Also potentially working against the Celtics, at least from a narrative standpoint is their performance in the 2022 NBA Finals against the Warriors.

“Going back to the Finals against Golden State, we saw problems — Tatum was not a good player necessarily and Brown was dribbling off his knee every other possession,” Cole said. “If that stuff rears its head again, they’re in trouble, but again, there’s so much mounting evidence that that’s not going to happen.”

To that final point, both agreed the Celtics should wrap this thing up pretty quick.

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“We’re probably overmagnifying just to find something,” Cole admitted.

“Yeah, this is total devil’s advocate,” Doyle said. “I don’t think these are really going to be problems, but that’s how good they are. You have to search through it and go where’s Waldo? I don’t really know where the flaw is, but that would be what I would point to. I think they win it in five.”

Cole replied, “I’d be even inclined to say sweep.”

“I think that’s very much on the table,” Doyle conceded.

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There’s plenty of time to pick apart the matchup, too, as the NBA Finals won’t start until June 6 at TD Garden in Boston.

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