Celtics take nothing for granted on brink of crown

Boston Celtics NBA Finals Celtics vs Mavericks

The Boston Celtics bench looks on as Dallas Mavericks forward P.J. Washington attempts a shot during the second half in Game 3 of the NBA basketball finals, Wednesday, June 12, 2024, in Dallas. The Celtics won 106-99.(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Jayson Tatum has known since he was drafted by the Celtics in 2017 that the measure of success in Boston is an NBA title, but he’s not chalking up championship No. 18 just yet.

“Even now, up 3-0, nobody is celebrating or anything,” Tatum said Thursday, a day after the Celtics thwarted a late Dallas rally to beat the Mavericks 106-99 and take a stranglehold on the best-of-seven NBA Finals.

They’ve piled up 10 straight playoff victories, including a sweep of the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference finals and can close out the Mavericks in Dallas on Friday.

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But even though no team has rallied from 0-3 down to win an NBA playoff series, Tatum said he and his Celtics teammates will remain focused only on playing better in game four.

“We still feel like there’s a lot more that we can do,” Tatum said. “There’s a lot more that we want to do.”

The Celtics are currently tied with the Los Angeles Lakers for most NBA titles all-time with 17.

They last lifted the trophy in 2008, and Tatum and teammate Jaylen Brown were on the team that had a chance for No. 18 two years ago but came up short against the Golden State Warriors in a title series that Boston led 2-1 before dropping the last three games.

Vying for redemption last season, the Celtics fell in seven games to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference finals.

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“I think from our experiences over the past couple of years, the thing that we’ve really gotten a lot better at is not relaxing, not being complacent,” Tatum said.

Brown said the “embarrassment” of falling in game seven, on their home floor, to Miami last year had fueled him this season.

“It drove me all summer, drove me crazy,” he said.

Tatum called last season “a great learning experience.”

“For one, to not take things for granted,” he said. “You’re never promised to make it back to the Finals.

“I think each and every person this year has came into the season with a different mindset. I think it has truly shown that we don’t take things for granted, and we approach every single day the same.”

That mindset saw the Celtics grab a league-leading 64 victories in the regular season.

They are unbeaten on the road in these playoffs and have a chance to become just the 10th team to fashion a 4-0 sweep in the NBA Finals.

The most recent sweep was Golden State’s 4-0 victory over LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2018.

The first franchise to do it was Boston against the Lakers in 1959. It was the club’s second title and the first of eight straight championships.

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“Being part of Celtics history entails that you’ve got to win a championship,” Tatum said.