close
close

The Boston Celtics will play the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals.

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum (0) plays around after dunking the ball during the Boston Celtics practice held at Auerbach Center on June 1. (Staff photo by Stuart Cahill/Boston Herald)

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum embraces his second chance to win a first NBA championship.

The Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals with a sweep of the Indiana Pacers and will face the Western Conference champion Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 at the TD Garden on Thursday night.

The Celtics were the young, up-and-coming team pitted against an aging dynasty when they faced the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 NBA Finals. The Celtics lost the series 4-2 and were defeated 103-90 at home in the decisive Game 6 on June 16.

“I have experienced a lot myself and we can learn from the experiences during the final. This time, this restart is very different.” Tatum said after Saturday’s practice at the Auerbach Center in Brighton.

“We’ve obviously been there before and come up short. It was a great opportunity to reach the final again and you don’t always get a second chance. So I really just see it as a second chance and try to simplify things as much as possible. It’s just another series we have to win.”

Tatum and the Celtics learned the hard truth that talent alone does not guarantee success in the 2019 NBA playoffs. The tandem of Tatum and shooting guard Jaylen Brown marked the beginning of a new era in team history that season, but the club was managed by Mavericks’ point guard Kyrie Irving.

Irving had a falling out with the Boston fanbase toward the end of his tumultuous two-year tenure on the Celtics’ court. The Celtics defeated the Indiana Pacers in the opening round, but were eliminated 4-2 by the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

“I think just learning from a talented team … and it’s not just talent that’s going to get you to the top,” Tatum said. “To have guys who are willing to sacrifice, guys who are willing to do other things so that the team has a chance.

“It wasn’t just a Kyrie thing. It was all of us. I think it was all us, we all contributed to why that season wasn’t a success. We all learned from it and moved on.

“Some of us stayed here and some of us left and have done great things since that season. I just look at that as a learning experience for my second year.”

One of the guys who left after the 2019 debacle was Irving, who took his emotional baggage with him to the Brooklyn Nets. Irving’s tenure with the Nets proved to be another unsatisfactory stop on the disgruntled superstar’s journey through the NBA. Irving lasted two and a half seasons in Brooklyn.

Irving was traded to the Mavericks on February 6, 2023, and he appears to have found a fulfilling role on head coach Jason Kidd’s roster. Irving and All-NBA first-team point guard Luka Doncic keep the Mavericks four games away from the franchise’s second NBA championship.

“It seems like Dallas is clearly a good fit to get to the NBA Finals,” said Tatum, who joined Doncic on the 2024 All-NBA first team.

“The staff and team were all having a bit of a laugh and it’s great to see Ky playing at such a high level there. He does all the special things that we like to see him do and that we enjoy.”

After completing the sweep of the Pacers in Indiana on Monday, May 27, the Celtics had to wait three days before finding out they would be playing the Mavericks. Dallas eliminated the Minnesota Timberwolves 124-103 on Thursday night in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals at Target Arena.

That amounts to nine days between Game 4 against Indiana and Game 1 against Dallas. Maintaining a competitive advantage can be difficult when downtime is filled primarily with practices, workouts, film studies and scrimmages.

“This is unique for many of us,” Tatum said. “The fastest we ever achieved was through a first and second and of course a third lap.

“A lot of the previous years we’ve had some seven-game series that just extend the playoffs. I think it was great for us to end a series the way it should be and to have this nice break. The work we do in the regular competition and that we can start the final at home.”