3 burning questions for the Boston Celtics ahead of the Finals

As the big series approaches this Thursday, we have to sit back and see if the Celtics answer these three questions.
Boston Celtics v Indiana Pacers - Game Four
Boston Celtics v Indiana Pacers - Game Four / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

What version of Jayson Tatum will show up these NBA Finals?

Questioning if Jayson Tatum will show up in these NBA Finals is entirely valid considering the stinker of a series he put up in 2022. In the 2022 NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, JT shrank under the pressure only averaging 21 points, seven assists, and seven rebounds on a measly 37% shooting from the field. These games were marked by either Tatum getting off to ridiculously slow starts or trying to do everything himself and forcing the issue. Neither version of the star forward will win a championship.

Jayson Tatum is having a tremendous playoff run thus far no matter what media pundits and casual fans will say to discredit his performance. Through all three rounds, he is leading the team in points, rebounds, and assists becoming the first player to do this since 2018 LeBron James. He is averaging 26 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 5.9 assists on 44% shooting. The only notable improvement comes from him needing to knock down the three more efficiently as 29% is not ideal. However, in turns of complete play, this has been his best playoff stint to date.

When the lights are brightest will the wing fold or win gold?

Will the Boston Celtics continue to play in a drop coverage?

A story as old as time when the Boston Celtics played drop coverage against the Golden State Warriors back in 2022 and regretted it deeply because of how Stephen Curry dominated. In these playoffs, under Joe Mazzulla, the Celtics have kept playing drop coverage throughout to mixed success. He's been willing to live with getting burned in the mid-range by opposing teams, but there is a difference in the type of opponents now.

Round one saw guards like Tyler Herro, and Delon Wright so it worked pretty well. Round two saw an injured Donovan Mitchell and the inconsistency of Darius Garland and Caris LeVert. The Eastern Conference Finals saw Tyrese Haliburton thrive before getting injured and Andrew Nembhard absolutely cook in those moments. The difference is on the other end, the Celtics were always able to dominate the perimeter with these teams and get timely stops when they needed to in order to win.

Against the Dallas Mavericks, doing a drop coverage against two mid-range maestros would prove disastrous for the Boston Celtics. Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic may very well be the most dangerous offensive backcourt the game has ever seen.

Will the Boston Celtics bench provide winning depth?

In the 2022 Finals, the Celtics bench went into ghost mode providing no depth on the biggest stage. Al Horford will supposably join and lead this second unit. Big Al is in year 17 and this may very well be his last chance to win a ring. The level of urgency for the big man means we are more than likely to count on a legacy game or two in the series. In six games of the 2022 NBA finals, Payton Pritchard averaged three points, two rebounds, and one assist on 30% shooting and did not score in the final three games he played in during the series. Sam Hauser was not a part of the rotation back then and is struggling to replicate his shooting prowess from the regular season.

Hauser was signed on to the C's bench to do two things: hit threes and play defense well enough to hold his own. There is no reason he is not fully capable of having a game where four or five threes are netted. We will dub it the Sam Hauser game, and hold it in the same lore as legendary performances of other role players such as Grant Williams, Kelly Olynyk, and Leon Powe.

Pritchard has been on a heater recently and should be a top-three bench player in the Finals. He has hit double-digit scoring marks in five of the Celtics 14 playoff games -- they are 4-1 when he scores 10 or more points. It is time to redeem himself from his disappearance in 2022.