May 18, 2024

We’ve finally made it to the 2022 NBA Finals, and we should be in store for an entertaining matchup pitting two dominant teams against each other for the title. The Golden State Warriors come into this matchup against the Boston Celtics having beaten the Dallas Mavericks in a convincing five games in the Western Conference finals. Thanks to the standout performance of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the depth of the Warriors, Golden State has made it back to the Finals after a two-season absence from the playoffs. It’ll be Golden State’s sixth Finals appearance in eight years, so you can say this team is more than comfortable playing on this stage. 

On the other side of this matchup are the Celtics, who are making their first Finals appearance since 2010. Boston finally got over the hump of losing in the Eastern Conference finals in three of the last six years, and it wasn’t without difficulty as the Celtics went through a gauntlet of opponents that culminated with beating the top-seeded Miami Heat in the East finals. Through that journey we’ve seen Jayson Tatum blossom into a superstar, and guys like Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart elevate their play to help lead Boston to the Finals.

This series is full of storylines and questions to think about, so as we prepare for Game 1, here’s everything you need to know about the NBA Finals matchup between the Warriors and Celtics.  

Golden State Warriors vs. Boston Celtics

  • Game 1 (at GS): Thursday, June 2 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABC
  • Game 2 (at GS): Sunday, June 5 | 8 p.m. ET | TV: ABC
  • Game 3 (at BOS): Wednesday, June 8 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABC
  • Game 4 (at BOS): Friday, June 10 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABC
  • Game 5* (at GS): Monday, June 13 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABC
  • Game 6* (at BOS): Thursday, June 16 | 9 p.m. ET | TV: ABC
  • Game 7* (at GS): Sunday, June 19 | 8 p.m. ET | TV: ABC

*If necessary

1. Defense or offense wins championships?

This will likely be the most talked about storyline leading up to Game 1, and throughout the entire series. The Warriors come into this matchup with the top-ranked offense in the playoffs, while the Celtics own the No. 2-ranked defense in the postseason. It’s going to be an absolute battle because while the Warriors have had the most potent offense through the playoffs, they haven’t faced a defense on the level of Boston. The same could be said for the Celtics and their defense. All three teams Boston faced had rather pedestrian offensive attacks, which in part was due to the C’s stifling scheme, but also just a lack of offensive firepower in the case of the Bucks and the Heat. 

That won’t be the case when they face the Warriors, a team that is built to beat you in a variety of ways. That’s why it will be the toughest task Boston has faced yet. The Warriors are at their best when they’re getting production from Poole, Thompson and Wiggins in addition to the nearly 26 points a night Curry has been averaging through the playoffs. The off-ball movement of both Curry and Thompson is both lethal in creating scoring opportunities and tiring opposing defenses. Poole’s athleticism and handle can wreck havoc against second-unit defenses, and Draymond Green acting as a roaming playmaker either through his passing or screen setting provides mismatches for the Warriors to target. 

We’ve seen Golden State take advantage of inferior defensive teams in the playoffs so far, but things won’t come as easy against Boston. The Celtics have the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Smart, who will no doubt be tasked with chasing Curry around all series long. Smart’s quick enough to keep up with Curry as he flies around screens, and can stay in front of him when he uses his handle to shake him loose. Golden State will surely try its best in setting multiple screens for Curry to break free from Smart, as well as try to put a lesser-quality defender on him. 

The only problem with trying to get favorable switches against this Boston team is that there really aren’t weak links to attack here. There is no Luka Doncic to exploit on offense. Boston prides itself in its versatility on defense, and is comfortable switching everything on screens. The Celtics’ pick-and-roll defense ranks second in the playoffs, limiting opponents to just 0.725 points per possession. Boston has the personnel to slow down this Golden State offense, but we’ll have to see if it can actually put it to use.

2. Which stars will deliver on the biggest stage?

This may seem like a silly question given we’ve seen the Warriors crew deliver time and time again en route to three championships, but this isn’t the Golden State team that was embarrassing teams back in 2017. This Warriors squad, while difficult to overcome, is at least beatable, and the Celtics are perhaps the best team in the league equipped to do just that. Curry has been spectacular in the playoffs, but the feeling that every time the ball leaves his hands it’s going in doesn’t seem to be there this season. His efficiency improved over the Dallas series, and he’s now shooting 38 percent on 3s in the playoffs, so perhaps he’s starting to peak at the right time and he’ll be able to go home with that Finals MVP trophy that has eluded him for years. 

Thompson has shown real flashes of his pre-injury self, but then there’s times when he doesn’t have the same lift as before, or struggles to score off the bounce. He had a vintage Klay performance in Golden State’s closeout game against the Mavericks, finishing with 32 points on a cool 48 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep. While Thompson won’t drop 30-plus points every game, he looked in rhythm all night. We’ll have to see if that performance was the table-setter for what to expect from him in the Finals. 

On Boston’s side, Tatum and Brown will be getting their first taste of the Finals. Nerves may set in, but it can’t last too long, otherwise they may find themselves in a hole quickly against Golden State. For Tatum, he’s been consistent throughout the playoffs, save for a few 10-point duds he had against the Bucks and the Heat. The scoring will come for him, but what will be important to watch is how he’s getting his teammates involved. Early in the season Smart challenged Tatum and Brown to work on their facilitation, and it’s resulted in Tatum averaging nearly six assists in the playoffs, the most in his career. When Tatum is at his best he’s not only dominating teams with his scoring prowess, but he’s also finding the open man in the corner as he’s driving to the rim, or dumping it off to Robert Williams III under the basket for an easy dunk. When he gets into panic mode, he tends to play with blinders on and it results in turnovers for him and the Celtics. He’ll need to avoid the latter as much as possible. 

The same goes for Brown, who has a tendency of getting his dribble caught up in traffic and turning the ball over. Brown also struggles sometimes with going ghost on offense. He may put up 15 points in the first half, but then he’ll take his foot off the gas in the second half and lose his rhythm. Or he may look to get going when the Celtics are trying to stage a comeback but it may be too late. Brown needs to be consistent, because when he and Tatum get going and are putting their teammates in a position to succeed on offense as well, the Celtics are a difficult team to beat. 

3. Which team can cut down on the mistakes?

Both teams have a tendency to beat themselves, and whichever side manages that best will likely come out on top. Golden State has a habit to get a little too comfortable — especially when they’re up — and shift into a turnover-happy team. That was a common theme during the regular season, as the Warriors averaged the second-most turnovers in the league (14.9). That issue has carried over to the postseason, with Golden State coughing up the ball 14.8 times a game. That can’t happen against Boston, a team that ranks second during the playoffs in points per possession in transition (1.24). Oftentimes the Warriors can cover up their mistakes down the stretch with their elite clutch offense, but if they fail to take care of the ball, that clutch offense may not matter if Boston can take advantage of Golden State’s mistakes. 

The Celtics also have their own issues that can cost them games. We all saw how they almost lost Game 7 against the Heat after being up 11 points with two and a half minutes left to play. Boston can go ice cold in a hurry on offense, and when that happens it’s like the Celtics go into immediate panic mode and start taking ill-advised shots. Just as the Celtics can capitalize off opponent misses in transition, so, too, can the Warriors. Nothing is more demoralizing for an opponent than Golden State pushing the tempo in transition and seeing Curry or Thompson drain a 3-pointer. Because of how well Golden State shoots 3s, Boston can’t afford to get foggy-headed on offense, because if it’s not careful, a small lead for the Warriors could turn into a double-digit deficit in a hurry.

Source link