Prior to Monday night's tip-off of the In-Season Tournament quarterfinals matchup between the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers, Charles Barkley confidently called his favorite to win the NBA Finals, going as far as guaranteeing it.
In a pregame segment during NBA on TNT, Barkley, along with Shaquille O'Neal, Ernie Johnson, and Kenny Smith, were discussing championship favorites. When the 15-4 Minnesota Timberwolves were thrown out as a contender, Barkley quickly inserted his opinion.
"I'm still not sold on the Timberwolves, that's just my personal opinion," Barkley said. "But I will say this, the Celtics are going to win the championship."
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Currently tied for the NBA's best record with the Timberwolves (15-4), the Celtics have been off to a rolling start. They entered the new season with a new-look roster built around their foundation players of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, only having weeks to prepare with the newest addition Jrue Holiday arriving just before the start of the preseason. Now dealing with injuries, with Porzingis still sidelined, Boston has remained strong with impressive performances from bench players stepping up.
"The Boston Celtics are the best team in the NBA," Barkley proclaimed. "The Boston Celtics are going to win the championship, guaranteed!"
Fans of other teams around the league quickly celebrated Barkley's pick, as history has not been on his side.
Last season, in a battle between the Nikola Jokic-led Denver Nuggets and a heavy underdog Miami Heat team, Barkley predicted that the Heat would win it all -- the Nuggets went on to beat the Heat four games to one. A year prior, Barkley also predicted that the Celtics would win the 2022 NBA Finals -- the Golden State Warriors beat Boston four games to two.
Barkley did have one caveat that made him nervous with his early prediction, and it's something all Celtics fans have feared since his arrival earlier this year -- injuries to Kristaps Porzingis.
"Porzingis is hurt," Barkley said of his only fear. "He's got to be healthy, but I'm still going with the Celtics."
The 7-foot-2 Latvian has played a key role in the Celtics' early success, averaging 18.9 points on 54.7 percent from the field, 6.7 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 1.9 assists per game. Porzingis has missed five games already but is expected to return to the lineup later this week.
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"He doesn't have to be dominant," Barkley said of Porzingis. "He's the fourth-best player on the team, he does not have to be dominant. He just has to be the best number four in the NBA."
Taking a look at lineups across the league, it would be near impossible to find a fourth option more efficient and better at their role than Porzingis has been for Boston.
If the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in '04 to end the curse of the Bambino, then there's no reason why the Celtics can't win the Finals in '24 to end the curse of Charles Barkley.