The Time is now for the Celtics

Ahead of the first game of the 2024 NBA Finals, we look at the trials and tribulations the Celtics have undergone to get to this point and set the stage for this year to be the year.
Jun 10, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) handles the ball against Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) and guard Jaylen Brown (7) during the second quarter during game four of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 10, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) handles the ball against Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) and guard Jaylen Brown (7) during the second quarter during game four of the 2022 NBA Finals at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

May 27, 2018.


A stunned, but proud, TD Garden crowd looks on as their shorthanded Celtics come up agonizingly short in an 87-79 loss to LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Despite the season’s deflating end, there’s room for optimism: players up and down this roster exceeded expectations, and rookie sensation Jayson Tatum came within minutes of leading his team to the NBA Finals.

Yes, it stings to lose, but when you factor in the return of injured stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, plus the continued development of talented youngsters such as Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier, the future is so blindingly bright it almost doesn’t matter. 

May 8, 2019.


Less than a year removed from ECF heartbreak, a Celtics team that started the year with championship aspirations appears to flat-out quit in the second round, culminating in a blowout 116-91 Game Five loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

A once-bright future now looks remarkably bleak; a year of infighting and bad basketball has led to a frustrating season that featured what seemed like as many cryptic postgame quotes as it did wins. Tatum and Brown endured a stagnant development year, while Irving, Al Horford, and others now look primed to bolt for greener pastures in free agency. It’s hard to characterize the season, and its bitter end, as anything except an unmitigated disaster.

September 27, 2020.


A weird, pandemic-altered year comes to a close as the Celtics once again end up just shy of the Finals, falling to Miami 125-113 in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals, played in an empty gym at the NBA's Disney World bubble.

Despite another year falling short of the ultimate prize, this doesn’t feel like a failure; both Tatum and Brown have taken leaps, and new signing Kemba Walker has been a steady, veteran presence in place of the departed Irving. Again, the Celtics feel on the precipice of breaking through. Surely, they’re one or two pieces away from making a real push for an NBA crown.

June 1, 2021.


Jayson Tatum’s series of superhuman efforts isn’t enough for an injury-riddled Celtics team to compete against a superteam Brooklyn Nets squad, falling 123-109 in the clincher of a gentleman’s sweep. The end is almost welcomed; it felt like nothing could go right for six months, and the offseason is a perfect opportunity to rest and reload for 2022.

June 16, 2022.


The images of Stephen Curry celebrating his fourth championship at TD Garden are etched forever into the minds of the Celtic faithful as the Golden State Warriors roll off three straight wins, including a 103-90 Game Six victory to pinch the O’Brien right out from under Boston’s noses.

While the season overall was a success, it’s impossible not to rue such a massive missed opportunity, and the sting of defeat will last until someone erases it. A dreadful Tatum showing in the Finals will attract the ire of the Internet and talking heads alike, and the offseason promises to be a tumultuous one.

May 29, 2023.


If this isn’t the end of the world, it certainly feels like it. The massively favored, championship-favorite Celtics drop the first three games of the Eastern Conference Finals to Miami, before clawing back, and ultimately losing Game Seven on their home floor, 103-84.

This is a franchise-altering loss; it’ll be the first domino in a series of major offseason transactions. But more than anything, it really starts to feel like the Tatum-Brown Celtics might never get over the hump.

Losing in this manner, to this team, feels like a gross indictment on every individual in the organization. For the sixth straight year, with the same nucleus, Boston comes up short of the ultimate goal, and a city goes soul-searching once again.

June 6, 2024. 

Hope, again.

This is it, right?

This Finals is the ultimate chance to rewrite the last six-and-a-half years. To legitimize all that Tatum and Brown have done for this team, this organization, this city since they first donned Celtic green, seven and eight years ago, respectively. To break the tie with the Lakers. To reestablish the Celtics as the premier NBA franchise. 

This Finals is all that stands in the way of a parade down Boylston St. It's all that stands in the way of a league-record eighteenth banner hanging in the TD Garden rafters. It's all that stands in the way of no Celtic wearing the number zero, or the number seven, ever again.

This Finals is the opportunity for fifteen men, and several more coaches, to stamp their legacies, forever. The opportunity to go down as one of the greatest teams in NBA history. The opportunity to vault themselves into the annals of Boston sports lore.

It's the opportunity to restore order, as Leon Powe said.

It won’t be a cakewalk. Nobody’s saying it should be, and, frankly, nobody wants it to be. Winning a championship is so universally revered for exactly that reason -- it’s really, really hard.

But doesn’t this feel like the team to do it?

They have the talent; there’s no argument there. Between Tatum, Brown, Derrick White, and newcomers Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis, the Celtics can trot out a real-life Monstars lineup.

And that’s before you consider Al Horford, Payton Pritchard, or Sam Hauser. There’s nothing on a basketball court this team is incapable of doing.

The experience is there, too. Holiday is the only player with a championship, but every rotational player barring Porzingis has at least tasted the Finals. Tatum and Brown have seen five and six Eastern Conference Finals, respectively, and the entire team has matured over the course of multiple playoff runs. The stage won’t be too big for this group.

The Tatum-Brown Celtics are like the hiker that’s dreamed of summiting Mount Everest. They’ve tried - and tried hard - but every year, something holds them back from reaching that mountaintop. For whatever reason, they can’t clear that final hurdle.

But this year… this year is different. They showed up to base camp with shiny, fresh-out-the-box equipment, a newfound, steely resolve molded from failures of years past, and a vivid understanding of the challenges that lay ahead.

And, in the blink of an eye, they’ve climbed three-quarters of the mountain, quicker and more efficiently than they ever have before. 

All that’s left to do now is summit that last peak. One final push. Four more wins to immortality. 

It won’t be easy. But, would you want it any other way?

More Celtics news and analysis: