Marcus Smart. Photo by Eric Drost, via Wikimedia Commons.
Back in 2016, I correctly predicted that the Cleveland Cavaliers would win the NBA finals, beating the heavily favored Golden State Warriors, which had won a record 73 games in the regular season. In 2021, I incorrectly predicted that the Kansas City Chiefs would beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I based both predictions on a theory: the best story would win. And maybe Tom Brady proved that anyway: a relative geezer who was by all measures the GOAT, proved that label.
So now I’m predicting that the Boston Celtics will win the championship because they will win because they have the better story.
Unless Steph Curry proves that he’s the GSOAT: Greatest Shooter Of All Time. Which he might. He sure looked like it in Game Four. That’s a great story too.
But I like the Celtics’ story better. Here we have a team of relative kids who were average at best by the middle of the season, but then, under their rookie coach, became a defensive juggernaut, racking up the best record through the remainder of the season, then blowing through three playoffs to get to the Finals. In Round One, they swept Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets, who were pre-season favorites to win the Eastern Conference. In Round Two, they beat Giannis Antentokuompo and the Milwaukee Bucks, who were defending champs, in six games. In Round Three, they won the conference championship by beating the Miami Heat, another great defensive team, and the one with the best record in the conference, in seven games. Now the Celtics are tied, 2-2, with the Western Conference champs, the Golden State Warriors, with Steph Curry playing his best, looking all but unbeatable, on a team playing defense that’s pretty much the equal of Boston’s.
Three games left, two at Golden State.
But I like the Celtics in this. They seem to have no problem winning on the road, and I think they want it more. And maybe even better.
May the best story win.
[Later…] Well, c’est le jeu. The Celtics lost the next two games, and the Warriors took the series.
After it was over, lots of great stories were told about the Warriors: the team peaked at the right time, they were brilliantly coached (especially on how to solve the Celtics), Steph moved up in all-time player rankings (maybe even into the top ten), Wiggins finally looked like the #1 draft choice he was years ago, the Dynasty is back. Long list, and it goes on. But the Celtics still had some fine stories of their own, especially around how they transformed from a mediocre team at mid-season to a proven title contender that came just two games away from winning it all. Not bad.