Sunday, March 13, 2022

Paul Pierce says Celtics can make the NBA Finals

With the Celtics holding the league's second best record since the turn of the calendar year, Hall of Famer Paul Pierce knows a thing or two about being on a contending roster and what it takes to bring a championship to Boston.

The 2008 NBA Finals MVP has been keeping a close eye on Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and this current C's team 14 years later since the last banner was raised. This version of the Celtics, who have won 18 of their last 21 games -- including a 114-101 win over the Detroit Pistons two days ago for their fifth straight win -- could very well be on the path to win the East, according to Pierce.
"Well, Jayson Tatum's playing at an MVP level. The Celtics are playing their best basketball right now," Pierce told NBC Sports Boston's Abby Chin while in attendance during the Celtics game Friday night. "If they continue to play like this, I could see them in the Eastern Conference Finals and possibly the NBA Finals."

While Pierce's prediction may be viewed as bias by some, it's also not as far-fetched if you see some of the latest odds. has the Celtics at a 33% chance of reaching the NBA Finals and a 20% chance of winning it all, which is the highest of all 30 teams. ESPN's basketball power index (BPI) gives Boston a 15.3% chance of winning the title -- the highest odds for any Eastern Conference team and second in the league behind the league leading Phoenix Suns.

The Celtics (41-27) since January 1st have a record of 24-8 and during that stretch have held the NBA's best defensive rating (103.5) and seventh-best offensive rating (115.1), giving them the best net rating (11.6) over the past two and half months.

Despite the Celtics getting off to a slow start to begin the 2021-22 campaign, Pierce was never in the camp that Tatum and Brown should be split up like former teammate Kendrick Perkins was advocating not too long ago. With the recent play of the two young stars, it may prove Pierce right if they continue on this road and to a Finals berth -- the first since 2010.

Tatum has been putting up some MVP type numbers over the last 21 games, averaging 29.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists while shooting 48.7% from the field, 36.4% from deep and 87% from the free throw line. Brown has also had some solid stats as a reliable No. 2, averaging 22.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 3.9 assists since the start of the new year.

Pierce, who was apart of Welcome Home Night at TD Garden during halftime of the Celtics win over the Pistons, is also in town to attend Kevin Garnett's number retiring ceremony.
"This is definitely an exciting weekend," Pierce said. "We're going to see another number go up into the banners. What more to enjoy with former teammates, with the big fella, Kevin Garnett! It's going to be amazing."
ABC will have the tip-off at 3:30 PM ET, when the Celtics host the Dallas Mavericks (41-26) Sunday afternoon, before Garnett becomes the 24th former player to be honored in the Garden rafters immediately following the game.

Joel Pavón

Photo used courtesy of Getty Images

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