Boston Celtics

Charles Barkley: ‘I would be shocked' if C's don't win championship

"If they don't win the championship this year, it would be a total gag job."

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At this point, it's safe to say anything less than Banner 18 would be a massive disappointment for the 2023-24 Boston Celtics.

The C's own the NBA's best record (48-13) and recently put together an 11-game win streak in which they dominated their opponents. They've been the odds-on favorite to win the 2024 NBA championship since the start of the campaign and that's likely to continue for as long as they're in contention.

Thursday marked a potential NBA Finals preview between the Celtics and defending champion Denver Nuggets. Before the marquee matchup, TNT's Charles Barkley emphasized that anything less than a title would be a failure for Boston.

"If they don't win the championship this year, it would be a total gag job," Barkley said of the Celtics on TNT's pregame show. "Because they've got everything."

Host Ernie Johnson countered Barkley's point by identifying Boston's bench as a weakness.

"Dude, come on. You've got (Jayson) Tatum, (Jaylen) Brown, Jrue Holiday -- Ernie, your rotation is gonna shrink during the playoffs so your bench is not as important as you think it is," Barkley responded. "They've got everything. You've got Brown and Tatum, you've got two of the best 10 players in the league probably. You've got a great leader in Jrue Holiday. You've got probably the best sixth man, even though he's a starter -- I'm talking about (Kristaps) Porzingis, I'm not even counting Derrick White.

"Porzingis is probably the best guy who's not a number one or two guy on the team in the NBA. And then you can throw Derrick White in there too. I would be shocked if the Celtics don't win."

Barkley has a knack for controversial takes, but this isn't one of them. The 2023-24 Celtics have been the franchise's best team since the 2007-08 championship group, which posted a 49-12 record through its first 61 games. It's a more talented roster than the one that took the Golden State Warriors to Game 6 of the 2022 Finals. For the team and its fans, Banner 18 isn't a hope, it's an expectation.

To accomplish that feat, the C's need to improve their late-game execution. The most recent example of their crunch time struggles came in Tuesday's stunning loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, during which they blew a 22-point lead in the final 8:52 of the game.

A victory over the reigning champs on Thursday night would go a long way toward getting the bitter taste of that Cleveland loss out of their mouths. Tip-off for the Celtics-Nuggets showdown is set for 10 p.m. ET right here on NBC Sports Boston.

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