Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown lead Boston Celtics to their 18th NBA title

Boston beat the Dallas Mavericks in five games to claim the title.

Boston • The Boston Celtics are again champions of the NBA, having claimed a milestone title Monday night that will reverberate from coast to coast and carve out legacies for the current pillars of this storied franchise.

The Celtics beat the Dallas Mavericks 106-88 in Game 5 of the 2024 NBA Finals to win the series 4-1 and claim a league-record 18th NBA championship.

A sea of green and white confetti fell from the rafters at TD Garden before Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla, the youngest coach in at least 48 years to win a title, hoisted the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Most of Boston’s police force was stationed outside the arena with area bars ordered not to let anyone in after halftime and urged to board their doors and windows if the championship celebration got out of hand. An hour after the game, Celtic fans were climbing street lights on Causeway Street outside the arena.

Why all the fuss for the NBA’s all-time greatest franchise? For the Celtics, it’d been a while. Boston ended a 16-year title drought and broke a tie with the rival Los Angeles Lakers that had stood since 2020.

“I mean, this is going to be a night that I will remember for the rest of my life, from the game, the celebration, these moments,” Celtics star and first-team All-NBA man Jayson Tatum said. “I had to listen to all the s— people said about me, and tonight … worth it.”

Tatum and Jaylen Brownthe Celtics’ co-anchors since Tatum’s rookie season in 2017, can take their place among the Boston legends to hang banners before them. Tatum finished with 31 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, while Brown added 21 points.

Brown, who felt snubbed when he was not named to any of the three All-NBA teams this season, is now on a hot streak for hardware. On Monday, Brown won the Bill Russell Award for the NBA Finals MVP, which followed the MVP he won during the conference finals.

Brown averaged 20.8 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.6 steals and 0.8 blocks in the finals. Tatum was better statistically (more points, boards and assists), but Brown was the steadier player who had made clutch plays earlier in the series when the games were closer.

“I can’t even put into words the emotions, it’s just, I’m blessed and I’m grateful,” said Brown, who was overcome with emotion as he reflected on winning MVP, the award named after Russell, the king of all Celtic legends and a mentor to Brown.

“This was a full team effort,” Brown continued. “It could have gone to anybody, it could have gone to Jayson. I can’t talk enough about his selflessness, I can’t talk enough about his attitude and how he approached not just the series or the finals, but the playoffs in general.”

Boston never trailed in the series clincher and led by 21 points at halftime, thanks to a 49-foot 3-pointer from Payton Pritchard to beat the second-quarter buzzer. The NBA’s best team all season, the Celtics won their 80th of 101 games by smashing Dallas on the glass (51 rebounds to 35) and scoring 10 more points at the foul line.

Celtics center Kristaps Porziņģisout since Game 2 with a rare tendon displacement injury near his left ankle, returned for the clincher and scored five points. Jrue Holiday, who like Porziņģis was added last offseason to fortify this already deep roster, contributed 15 points. He is a champion for the second time, having won in 2021 with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Tatum and Holiday are committed to playing for Team USA at the Paris Olympics, looking to win a gold medal in the same summer months following a title. Holiday accomplished that in 2021 when the Americans won gold in Tokyo.

Derrick White, a possible injury replacement for the Olympic team if one is needed, gave Boston 14 points and eight rebounds. He fell face-first on the court in the first half, cutting his lip and chipping a tooth.

“I’d lose all my teeth for a championship,” White said.

The Mavericks, the No. 5-seeded team in the West with only two rotation players over age 27, were led in scoring by Luka Dončić with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Kyrie Irving, the former Celtics player, suffered through a tough Game 5 with 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting which was worse than the box score indicated.

Dallas changed its team at the trade deadline by dealing for veteran bigs P.J. Washington and Daniel Gafford. The moves altered the trajectory of the Mavs but were not enough for them to compete seriously with the Celtics.

“(The Celtics are) a great team,” said Dončić, who played the series with a bruised chest and lower leg injuries. “They have been together for a long time, and they had to go through everything, so we just got to look at them, see how they play, maturity, and they have some great players.

“We can learn from that. We got to fight next season.”

Dating to Brown’s rookie season of 2016-17, Tatum and Brown have helped steer Boston to six conference finals and two NBA Finals and finally broke through Monday night. They set an NBA record for playoff games played together (107) before winning a title.

Together they endured a 2022 Finals loss to Golden State — they suffered a clinching loss in Game 6 at home — and nearly came back from a 3-0 deficit before falling in Game 7 of the 2023 conference finals to Miami. Tatum accumulated the fifth-most playoff points at the time of his first title, trailing only Jerry West, LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki and Kevin Durant.

“I think (Brown) and JT should have split (MVP), but those two guys in particular have, you know, almost been like students and (are) now becoming teachers in their own right,” said Irving, teammates to Tatum and Brown from 2017 to 2019.

Al Horford, the Celtics’ 38-year-old center, played the second-most playoff games (186) before his first title. Only Karl Malone (193) played more. Horford finished with nine points and nine rebounds in 32 minutes.

On the other end of the spectrum, Mazzulla, 35, is the youngest coach since the ABA-NBA merger in 1976 to win a title. Mazzulla is the sixth coach to win at age 35 or younger and the first since Bill Russell in 1969.

“I think the most important thing, something that’s really been going through my mind throughout this process, is you can’t lose sight of the people that came before us,” Mazzulla said. “And I want to make sure every person that’s worked for the Celtics, that’s played for the Celtics that didn’t win, knows that their work and what they have done has not gone unnoticed or it doesn’t play a part in where we are at today.”

The Celtics are the NBA’s first No. 1 overall seed heading into the postseason to win since the Golden State Warriors beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games in the 2017 finals. Boston also snapped its second-longest lapse between titles in franchise history. The longest was 22 seasons from 1986 to 2008 — the last of the Celtics’ titles until this one.

“I think when you look at their journey for seven years, there’s been ups, there’s been learning experiences for them with winning and losing,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said, “and so understanding for us, we’ve been together for five months, some of us, so this is a really positive journey that we’ve been on here. And we’ll look at what we can do as we get to the finals, just understanding we have to play our best basketball.

“Unfortunately, Boston was better than us in this series and they won the championship.”

This article originally appeared in The Athletic.