Assessing the best road map to the NBA Finals for the Boston Celtics

Boston Celtics v Oklahoma City Thunder
Boston Celtics v Oklahoma City Thunder / Joshua Gateley/GettyImages

The Boston Celtics must draw the Indiana Pacers

This one may be a long shot as the Indiana Pacers got blown out by the New York Knicks in Game 5 by 30 points. The bright side is the Pacers are undefeated at home going 5-0 thus far these playoffs. It all has the making of a seven-game series. Celtics fans everywhere should be hoping for Tyrese Haliburton and company to force a Game 7. The ideal situation has these teams hitting haymakers on each other before the conference finals.

So why the Indiana Pacers? They are a much deeper team than the Knicks after all. Yes, this is true but it comes at the expense of less than reliable performances from their top five. They are also the second youngest team outside of the Thunder remaining in these playoffs. The experience edge is what I am leaning into. This season, Boston won the season series 3-2 over the Pacers. Statistically these are two of best offenses in recent history.

Wanting the Pacers as the opponent comes more at the expense of not wanting the Knicks. Trying to contain a shifty Jalen Brunson is a matchup nightmare for a Cs team that plays drop coverage. Now, it all depends on where you stand: have the adversity now and get a real test, or coast to the NBA finals and maximize their health and energy. Tyrese Haliburton has been so sporadic lately and Indy's best answer for our top offensive weapons is Myles Turner and Aaron Nesmith defensively.

New York is the more beat-up team, but they have more than enough to show a level of resilience Beantown has not faced to this point. Brunson had his way against the Cs this year averaging 27.4 points per game to go with 5.4 assists on 48% from the field, and 34 % from 3. Boston did win the season series 4-1 against the Knickerbockers, but during the last game, it felt like maybe Thibs cracked a code on how to best us. I would rather go against a fully healthy team as a Celtics fan than an injured team because the Celts have the tendency to play down to injured teams. Those types of shenanigans just make for a longer series.

The Boston Celtics must the OKC Thunder in the Finals

Let's discuss the other teams first before I get into why the Thunder are the best option for the Celtics to win the Championship. The Dallas Mavericks have two elite closers to our one. Luka has an affinity for absolutely killing the Cs these last few years. Now that they have bulked up and there is no guarantee we get KP back, it's not the best matchup. I would still take Boston, but it's a longer more heart attack triggering series.

The Minnesota Timberwolves have Anthony Edwards and one of the best defenses the NBA has seen in possibly five years. Ant-Man is averaging 33.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and five assists per game on 52% from the field, and 36% on treys across two games. The Cs split the season series with the Wolves and every game was a closer-than-welcomed barn burner. This series seems like a coin flip and would definitely go seven.

I feel like I do not even need to start on why the Denver Nuggets would be the absolute worst match up for the Green team. A team of championship pedigree, hostile environment on the road, and has the best player in the league in Nikola Jokic. Denver swept the C's 2-0 in the season series and it really came down to the squad having no answer for the dynamic duo of Jokic and Murray. The Joker averaged a 33 point triple double across two games. Jamal Murray averaged 27 points, seven rebounds, and 6.5 assists per game in two games. This is the only match up where the C's would not be favorited.

The Oklahoma City Thunder are the youngest team by far in the playoffs and their youth is starting to show. Shai Gilgeous Alexander is a killer against any team, but no definitive second option has stepped up to support him. Jalen Williams is struggling mightily this series and has not cracked 20 points even once against the Mavs. Chet Holmgren likes to shoot the three, but the percentages do not like him doing it. Gordon Hayward who was expected to be a major addition has gone scoreless and been benched in recent games.

Josh Giddey is out of the starting line up and his replacements have not been ideal. Lu Dort can stop anyone, but plays so erratic offensively making it a wash. This is the only matchup where Boston could beat the opponent with or without Kristaps Porzingis.