Why Jeff Van Gundy sees Celtics as ‘truly a championship contender'

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Following their first-round series sweep of the Brooklyn Nets, the Boston Celtics are starting to get the national recognition they deserve.

ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy already was a believer in the C's heading into the playoffs, but he's even more convinced of their NBA title chances after watching how they handled Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the big stage. He joined WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show" on Tuesday to share why he's all-in on this Boston team.

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“I didn’t see a sweep, but they’re clearly a better team. They have been for the last three months,” Van Gundy said. “So it didn’t surprise me that they were dominant, but sweeping Kevin Durant is obviously an incredible accomplishment.

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“And the way they did it, they played better on offense than they did on defense at times, which is a great balance for them. They have the great defense, and to combine that with really good offense makes them what they are, which is truly a championship contender.”

It certainly helps to have one of the game's best all-around players in Jayson Tatum. Van Gundy raved about how far the 24-year-old already has come in his development.

"Jayson Tatum is an unbelievably great player, and he’s improved from being a dominant scorer to being the best player on what could be the best team,” Van Gundy said. “Because he is now passing the ball consistently, making the right plays, which engenders unselfishness for the whole team. And then defensively, he’s been awesome. His commitment to the defensive end of the floor and his actual defensive skill and anticipation is off the charts.”

Tatum averaged 29.5 points, 7.3 assists, and 1.8 steals per game during the Nets series. His 118 total points are the most scored by a C's player in a four-game sweep, and that mark breaks his own record from Boston's 2020 first-round series win over the Philadelphia 76ers.

It's a promising start to the postseason for Tatum and the Celtics, but there's a long way to go. Next up is the Eastern Conference Semifinals, in which they'll face off against either the Milwaukee Bucks or the Chicago Bulls. Milwaukee leads Chicago 3-1 in their first-round series and will have an opportunity to clinch on Wednesday.

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