BOSTON — Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown are under immense pressure to guide the Celtics to an NBA title, which Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd can understand from first-hand experience.

Kidd, now 11 years removed from his playing career, came across a similar situation back when the 51-year-old was the leader of the then-New Jersey Nets. Playing alongside Brian Scalabrine, Kidd and the Nets booked back-to-back Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003, only to get swept by Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal and defeated by Tim Duncan, respectively.

It took eight years before Kidd returned to the Finals, with Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks, before capturing his first and only title as a player.

“I think you do have to experience it,” Kidd said during Wednesday’s NBA Finals media day at TD Garden. “I think that’s the nicer way to accept losing, is that you have to go through it. It’s a graceful way to accept losing. But you do have to, again, go through defeat to understand that bad taste, how do you feel, how does it make you feel, to work on your game, to get better. There are times when you’re just not good enough. As a player, unfortunately with the Nets, we played the Lakers, we weren’t just good enough and we got swept. There are some cases that you run into Shaq and Kobe. You got to just take defeat and then move on.”

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It was a tough pill to swallow when Tatum and Brown coughed up a 2-1 series lead against the Golden State Warriors amid Boston’s 2022 run to the Finals. Losing three straight while watching Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green pop champagne and celebrate at TD Garden in Game 6 created a scarring, but motivating memory for every member of that Celtics team.

Tatum’s wrist injury hindered the Celtics star from being effective throughout the series. He averaged 21.5 points and shot an underwhelming 31.5% from 2-point range. Meanwhile, Brown became a turnover machine, logging 20 in total and shooting 29.4% in Game 2, and then 27.8% in Game 5.

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Long story short, redemption is long overdue.

The Eastern Conference has been up for grabs since LeBron James fled Cleveland for the sunshine in Los Angeles in 2018. However, it has taken Tatum, Brown, and the Celtics over five years to recognize and take advantage of their championship window. They accumulated a league-best 64 wins in the regular season, dusted their hands after putting the Pacers away in four games in the conference finals, and are right back where they were.

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“They learned something,” Kidd said. “You could see they’re playing at a high level right now, winning 64 games, the best team in the NBA. To be penciled in at the beginning of the season, that puts a little pressure or stress because you’re supposed to be here. They fulfilled that.”

Featured image via Peter Casey/USA TODAY Sports Images