It’s all over but the shouting. When the curtains fall on the 2024 National Basketball Association Finals, the Celtics will have an 18th banner in the TD Garden rafters. There’s a reason no zero-three deficit has been upended in pro hoops annals, and the Mavericks do not have nearly enough in their tank to overcome that reason. It’s an endeavor that would be Sisyphean in any case, but the fact that they’re up against ascendant opposition that appears to have all the counters to their strengths effectively ensures their failure.

To be sure, there’s no shame in the Mavericks adding to the streak of zero-three slates turned into best-of-seven series losses. Given their roster frailties, their heliocentric system simply isn’t up to the task of overcoming the complete Celtics. For all the capacity of wunderkind Luka Doncic to bend defenses at his will following a marked improvement in his touch from long range, he is nearing the end of a long campaign that first required him to improve the playoff seeding of the blue and white, and then to lead the charge against seemingly superior completion.

Not that the Mavericks will be throwing in the towel tomorrow. It’s a tribute to their character that they utterly refuse to lose regardless of circumstance. If anything, they become sharper precisely when they are told that their fate is sealed. Yesterday, for instance, they were down 21 with 10 minutes and change left in the match, but they kept on grinding — kept on moving uphill, kept on closing the gap — until they had a real chance of winning. And perhaps they would have completed the turnaround had Doncic not fouled out after committing two personals in a span of 26 seconds.

In the final analysis, however, speculation counts for squat. Which is why the Mavericks will need to be content with a bridesmaid finish when the battlesmoke clears. It’s a significant accomplishment in and of itself, especially since they failed to even get past the regular season last year, and appeared to be floundering heading into the trade deadline. And, clearly, Doncic will be all the better for his experience. Considering how otherworldly he already is, the thought should rightly scare the rest of the league. The sting that he feels in the meantime figures to propel him to even greater heights.


Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and human resources management, corporate communications, and business development.