That’s all, folks!

The Celtics are up 3-0 on the Mavericks and we’re one game away from Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford winning a ring. Anna Horford is going to be even more insufferable, if it’s possible.

How did Boston get here? Well let’s rewind first to 2016:

Brown is scoring 30+ in the NBA Finals while Ben Simmons is scoring 30+ in Fortnite.

Now let’s check out the 2017 draft:

Tatum went on to be a five-time All Star while Markelle Fultz forgot how to shoot.

So that’s the gist right there. The Celtics got their two superstars out of the draft while the Sixers’ pair of #1 draft picks didn’t work out. Yeah, Ben was quality for a few years, but when the fourth quarter of the playoffs came around, he was good for the dunker spot on the offensive end and not much else. Tatum and Brown had 31 points in the second of half of Game 3 on Wednesday night.

You can begin and end a lot of the convoluted Process arguments right there. The Celtics nailed those two draft picks and the Sixers did not. Then Boston found two high quality perimeter complements in Jrue Holiday and Derrick White, threw a couple of veterans into the mix (Horford, Porzingis), and they’re about to win a ring. The Sixers have been chasing in perpetuity because that core of Embiid/Simmons/Fultz never formed, leading to a revolving door of James Harden, Jimmy Butler, Tobias Harris, and other guys who couldn’t get the job done.

The other thing about playoff basketball is that it’s a half court, perimeter game, especially in the late stages. Look at how the Celtics were scoring in the second half of Game 3:

There’s a lot of five out in those Boston half court possessions. They’ll run middle pick and roll and/or shade a player into the dunker spot, execute on some iso and drive-and-kick sequences, but they’re largely comfortable putting everyone on the three point line and letting these guys play. They can all shoot threes. Holiday and White are 40% these playoffs. Horford and Hauser are 35% and Tatum is the only guy shooting under 30%. But with Tatum, Brown, Holiday, and White, that’s four legitimate perimeter studs, and Tatum and Brown are big enough at 6’8″ and 6’6″ to post against mismatches and get those duck-ins against the Dallas guards.

The play that ended up being the dagger for the Celtics was a simple high pick and roll with White screening for Brown:

Brown wound up pulling up and shooting right over the defender there. That’s playoff basketball – big time shot creation and shot making in the half court. It’s about ball handling, perimeter play, and mismatch identification and exploitation. And that’s only talking about one half of the floor. Boston’s roster is full of plus defenders who can do a little bit of everything in their own half.

This question keeps bugging me –

If we miraculously get a healthy Embiid in at some point in the future, does his style fit the current Zeitgeist of playoff basketball? Is he getting that consistent whistle or does it start to go away as we get deeper into the playoffs? Does Tyrese Maxey ever reach the level of Boston’s stars? I really don’t know. Embiid’s 50 point game against the Knicks included 19 free throws, and he had an outlier 5-7 three point shooting night. But in 67 playoff games, he’s scored 30 or more without 10+ free throw attempts only four times. When it comes down to the guts of the game, in the playoffs, does Joel Embiid have the ball in his hands, and is he creating a clean look with regularity? He’s not a pick and roll ball handler and he’s not taking anybody off the dribble. It’s just eating at me. It’s gnawing. I don’t think his game is the best fit for fourth quarter, playoff basketball against decent teams.