"We're going to win the Finals this year," Tatum said after taking the All-Star Skills Challenge on Saturday, per NBA on ESPN. "February 16, Jayson Tatum said we're going to win the Finals this year."
The 37-21 Celtics are tied for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. They've endured a roller-coaster season but have won two straight and seven of their last 10.
It's been a bizarre 2018-19 campaign in Boston. The year started with great expectations, as the Celtics had the highest over/under win total of any Eastern Conference team, per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook (h/t Vegas Insider).
Per 5Dimes (h/t Sports Odds History), the Celtics were also second on the odds ledger to win the NBA title, behind the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
But the C's have been plagued by inconsistency all season. Home losses to the New York Knicks and Phoenix Suns, who have the two worst records in the league, serve as the low points of the season. Boston also lost on a buzzer-beater to the struggling Los Angeles Lakers and blew a 28-point lead to the Los Angeles Clippers in back-to-back games.
However, Boston has also beaten the 37-21 Philadelphia 76ers three times and the 43-16 Toronto Raptors twice. The C's are 12-3 in their last 15 games.
At its best, Boston can beat any Eastern Conference team in a seven-game series. The problem is the C's will likely have to overcome their opponents' home-court advantage in the conference semifinals and finals to reach the NBA championship (barring upsets) with the Milwaukee Bucks and Raps each having six more wins with two months remaining.
And if the Celtics get to the NBA Finals, then the odds-on favorite Golden State Warriors will likely be waiting.
Chances are Tatum's prophecy won't ring true come June, but who can blame him for having confidence? As Ricky Bobby once said in the movie Talladega Nights, if you're not first, you're last. Ultimately, Tatum seems to at least have the right mindset as his team enters the regular season's closing stretch.