Autograph Exclusive: NBA Finals Preview

June 6, 2024
By Cam Tabatabaie
The Boston Celtics are set to face the Dallas Mavericks in the 2024 NBA Finals, a highly-anticipated match with some excellent stories for fans to follow.

This article was written exclusively for the Autograph app by Cam Tabatabaie. Cam is a credentialed reporter with a decade of experience covering the NBA and the Boston Celtics. You can find his work at The Celtics Wire & USA Today SMG. He also hosts the Celtics Lab Podcast.

5 storylines that will dominate the NBA Finals

The Boston Celtics are set to face the Dallas Mavericks in the 2024 NBA Finals, a highly-anticipated match with some excellent stories for fans to follow. Beyond the basketball itself, the series offers a number of excellent narratives.

The drama of Kyrie Irving’s return to Boston will be heavily-scrutinized, for example. As will the duel between Luka Doncic and Jayson Tatum, or the growth of Jaylen Brown. With every play and every game, fans and media will rehash some of their hottest takes. The matter of who is holding the trophy when the dust settles also matters, and Dallas and Boston have succeeded behind two very different styles. Will Boston’s analytical approach win out or can Doncic and Irving manufacture enough buckets to grab the title?

Let’s dive in and break down the best stories from the upcoming NBA Finals.

Can these Celtics get it done?

Boston has been in the spotlight for years now, and the Celtics have gone to six of the last eight Eastern Conference finals. With all that winning, however, this is just the club’s second trip to the championship round in that time. Back in 2022, they came up short in a loud way.

All eyes are on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, and whether or not they can successfully work in tandem to win a title. After winning a league-best 64 games in the regular season, they look poised to get over the hump. But will the problems of the past remain?

Too many turnovers and a lack of ball movement could signal that Tatum and Brown haven’t learned from previous postseasons. Steadier offense and greater poise might suggest they have indeed turned the page. Whether or not it’s fair, this finals will end up being a referendum on these two. 

Who is the top dog in the NBA?

Winning an NBA title is the ultimate goal in the Association, greater than MVPs, All-NBA nods, or any other accolade. It’s the surest way to become the top dog in the league. This is especially true for guys like Doncic or Tatum.

The two best players on their respective teams, Doncic and Tatum are clearly among the biggest names in the NBA. But because some of their peers in that category have already won titles, MVPs, or both, neither can really claim pole position. Winning changes narratives in a big way, however.

With a title added to his resume, suddenly the mood around Tatum’s career shifts. There are a lot of critics out there, but it’s harder to jeer the guy holding the trophy at the end of the season.

Has Boston forgiven Kyrie?

Kyrie Irving didn’t just say he wanted to re-sign with the Celtics. He eagerly told fans he wanted his number retired in the rafters, only to sandbag it in the postseason and jump ship to Brooklyn.

Folks in Boston haven’t necessarily forgotten, and there has been plenty of acrimony between Irving and Celtics fans. Logo stomps, flying water bottles, and a few flipped birds headline a no-love-lost relationship between Irving and his former home.

Irving said prior to the series he has grown. Fans in Boston also seem to have relaxed a bit on this issue as well. Once the passion of the series sets in, however, how long will this tepid peace last?

Is Mazzulla ready for the moment?

At age 35, Joe Mazzulla tied Bill Russell as the youngest coach to ever lead a team in the NBA finals. He was with the club as an assistant in 2022, but what will things look like now that he is firmly at the helm.

He has shown great resolve in letting analytics be the key determinant of his team’s success. On defense Mazzulla tries to force opponents to take deceivingly open shots by taking away higher-value ones like corner 3s and layups. On offense the Celtics have relied heavily on shooting from distance.

It’s an approach that has brought Boston great success so far. But it only takes a few wayward games for a series to fall away. It will be fascinating to see how Mazzulla approaches things should his system begin to buckle.

Who wins the 3-point battle?

During the regular season, the Celtics were among the top shooting teams in the NBA. During the second half of the year, they took and made the most 3-pointers in the entire league. Dallas, meanwhile, was roughly average in this regard.

In the playoffs, however, the Mavericks have been a slightly better team from deep. Boston has still been letting it fly, but with much less success. Tatum in particular has struggled in that category, and Boston’s 3-point numbers have looked shaky as a result.

It will be interesting to see if this cold shooting persists for Tatum and what it does for the Celtics offense. Could Boston’s high-powered offense be its downfall?

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