Dominant Celtics leaps across the Lakers

Led by an in-form Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics won its 18th NBA championship, breaking the Los Angeles Lakers’ previous record.

Published : Jun 29, 2024 17:54 IST , Chennai - 4 MINS READ

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum with the trophy.
Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum with the trophy. | Photo Credit: Reuters
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Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum with the trophy. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Growing up, Jayson Tatum was a devoted fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and admired Kobe Bryant deeply. He was tantalisingly close to playing for his favourite team when the Lakers had the opportunity to draft him in 2017.

“It was crazy that the Lakers had the second pick, and I was so close to a dream come true. But it was like they didn’t want anything to do with me at the time,” Tatum told ESPN in a 2022 interview.

It was poetic irony then that he played a pivotal role in the Boston Celtics’ title-winning run in the 2023-24 season, helping the team lift the championship trophy for a record 18th time, surpassing the Lakers’ previous record.

Celtics’ dominant season

The Celtics had an exceptional season this year, deserving some degree of boasting. Under the guidance of head coach Joe Mazzulla, who has been at the helm since 2022, the team clinched the top spot in both the Atlantic Division and the Eastern Conference before entering the Playoffs.

This marked the seventh time it topped both division and conference standings. In the previous six instances — 1973-74, 1975-76, 1980-81, 1983-84, 1985-86, and 2007-08 — the team lifted the Larry O’Brien Championship trophy. This season, the franchise continued this trend.

Tatum (0) played a pivotal role in the Boston Celtics’ title-winning run in the 2023-24 season, helping the team lift the championship trophy for a record 18th time, surpassing the Lakers’ previous record.
Tatum (0) played a pivotal role in the Boston Celtics’ title-winning run in the 2023-24 season, helping the team lift the championship trophy for a record 18th time, surpassing the Lakers’ previous record. | Photo Credit: Reuters
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Tatum (0) played a pivotal role in the Boston Celtics’ title-winning run in the 2023-24 season, helping the team lift the championship trophy for a record 18th time, surpassing the Lakers’ previous record. | Photo Credit: Reuters

In the first round, the Celtics faced the Miami Heat. In the best-of-seven series, the Celtics wrapped things up 4-1, comfortably cruising to the Conference semifinals, where it defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers with the same 4-1 scoreline. It then swept the Indiana Pacers 4-0 in the Conference finals.

ALSO READ: NBA Draft 2024: Bronny James, son of LeBron James, picked by Lakers

In the NBA Finals, the Celtics met the Dallas Mavericks for the first time in the competition’s history. Despite Dallas being armed with Luka Doncic – the Slovenian forward-guard who was a contender for the MVP award with a points-per-game average of 33.9 – Boston extended Dallas’ wait for a second NBA title.

Lacklustre Lakers and not-so-golden Warriors

During the late ‘90s to late 2000s, the Los Angeles Lakers, led by legends Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, celebrated five title-winning seasons. However, following O’Neal’s retirement in 2011 and during Bryant’s final years, the Lakers failed to qualify for the Playoffs for six straight seasons.

Its fortunes changed with the signing of LeBron James, whose 2019-20 season not only helped his team lift the trophy after a decade but also earned him the MVP title. However, things have been quiet since then.

After failing to make it past the first round in the 2020-21 season, the Lakers didn’t qualify for the Playoffs the following year. There was a slight improvement in the 2022-23 season when the Lakers reached the Conference finals, but they faced another first-round exit this past season.

LeBron James and Stephen Curry.
LeBron James and Stephen Curry. | Photo Credit: AFP
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LeBron James and Stephen Curry. | Photo Credit: AFP

Perhaps the promise of the first-ever father-son duo in NBA history with LeBron and Bronny James may reap some rewards in the upcoming season, but only time will tell.

Interestingly, the defending champion Denver Nuggets, which knocked out the Lakers this time around, was ousted by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Conference semifinals.

ALSO READ: Paris 2024: Steph Curry, LeBron James ‘excited’ to join forces for Olympics - Kerr

Over in San Francisco, while point guard Stephen Curry received the Clutch Player of the Year Award, his team, the Golden State Warriors, had a season to forget. The six-time champion failed to make the Playoffs after losing to Sacramento Kings in the Play-in tournament.

The Warriors could have just looked back at the 2021-22 season, when it clinched its sixth title, for some answers. Perhaps it relied too much on Curry, who finished his 15th season as a Warrior. The next best points-per-game to Curry’s 26.4 was Klay Thompson’s 17.9.

Mr. Consistent

Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic.
Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic. | Photo Credit: AP
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Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic. | Photo Credit: AP

Nikola Jokic of Serbia was adjudged the Most Valuable Player of the regular season in 2024. This was his third MVP title, with the other two coming in 2021 and 2022. Jokic has been with the Denver Nuggets since the 2015-16 season and has shown a steady rise in his scoring rate.

In the 2018-19 season, he crossed 1500 points during the regular season. Over the past four seasons, he has had two 2000+ points seasons – 2021-22 and 2023-24. In the year he helped his team win its maiden NBA title, Jokic amassed 1690 points with an average of 24.5.

While Jokic and his team couldn’t defend its title against an in-form Celtics, it will hope to bank on the Serbian star to lead by example next season and clinch its second title in three years.

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