Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the Dallas Mavericks winning the Western Conference Finals, and Derreck Lively II’s return from injury.

The Boston Celtics are going to the NBA Finals for the second time in three years. After sweeping the Indiana Pacers in this year’s Eastern Conference Finals, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are finally getting another chance to prove they can win an NBA title. 

Tatum and Brown have had plenty of opportunities to make a title run, considering that they’ve made the Eastern Conference Finals six times in the last eight years, so they know how hard it is to actually make the NBA Finals. What they also know is that whoever is waiting for them on the other side of the court will have some bonafide killers. That happened in 2022, when Steph Curry finally won himself a Finals MVP and beat them 4-2. Curry averaged 31.2 points, six rebounds and five assists in those six games, including a 34/7/7 masterpiece in the closeout game.

Barring some kind of miracle, the Celtics will be facing the Dallas Mavericks, who completed a gentleman’s sweep of the Minnesota Timberwolves after Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, who scored 36 points apiece in the blowout Game 5 win. The Mavericks have only gotten better over the last three games, so I feel safe to assume that they will be the ones representing the Western Conference.

The big question then is: can the Celtics handle Doncic and Irving? Boston have had one of the easiest runs to the Finals in recent memory, facing three teams that at some point before or during the postseason lost their star players.

Doncic and Irving are both certified killers. They have the type of old school one-on-one game that makes it nearly impossible to guard them and they have the skill and will to get a bucket anytime they goddamn want. For example, let’s remember how Doncic put Gobert on an island and hit a stepback jumper to win Game 2 in Minnesota. With 12 seconds left on the clock and down two points at the start of the possession, Doncic could have just tried to drive to the basket or set up someone else for an attempt to tie the game and force overtime. Instead, he said fuck it and went for the jugular.

Irving is just as cold-blooded as Doncic. It feels like an eternity ago, but as a young 23-year-old man Irving stared Curry in the face in the 2016 NBA Finals and nailed the biggest shot of his career so far.

He’s been doing that shit plenty during his whole career too and the scary thing is Irving and Doncic have managed to figure out how to let a game’s natural ebb and flow suit them. In the earlier rounds, Doncic would often carry the first half before ceding control to Irving in the second. In Game 3 against the Timberwolves, the two of them combined for 21 points in the fourth quarter while having an identical 33 points for the game.

So now, after holding on to a painful memory of dealing with one player with a killer mentality in their last trip to the Finals, Tatum and Brown have the privilege of facing two guys who are more than willing to take the responsibility of making or missing “fuck you” buckets in the clutch. It’s almost laughable how strange the Celtics’ luck has been, but they’ve shown plenty of times before that an iron-willed opponent can beat them. Just ask Jimmy Butler.

Of course, the situation for the Celtics is markedly different in 2024 compared to 2022. They now have a much more complete squad and somehow upgraded from Marcus Smart to Jrue Holiday. They also added important pieces like Derrick White and Kristaps Porzingis, while also having an extremely deep talent pool in their bench.

The Celtics also own a 2-0 regular season over the Mavericks, with the latter of the two being a 138-110 blowout. However, it’s a whole ‘nother ball game in June. The Pacers showed that the Celtics can be vulnerable to teams, needing a big-time shot from Jaylen Brown to win Game 1, and also having to come back from an 18-point second half deficit in Game 3 when Tyrese Haliburton wasn’t even playing.

I don’t think anyone would argue that the Celtics have more talent on their roster. However, we’ve seen examples of how more talented teams can be beaten. It happened to the 2004 LA Lakers, who had Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone and Gary Payton. Oh, and who can forget the Mavericks in 2011, who rode an unbelievable performance from Dirk Nowitzki to defeat the “Not one, not two, not three…” Heatles to win the franchise’s first ring.

I have no idea who’s going to win, but I can’t wait to start watching the Finals.