The Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors are set to face off in the NBA Finals. These two teams have drastically different playing styles that should make for an entertaining end to the season.
NBA Finals Preview
Golden State made quick work of the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference Finals. Luka Doncic gave it his all, but the Warriors’ offense proved to be too much. After facing a Memphis Grizzlies team without star Ja Morant and overwhelming MVP Nikola Jokic and the outclassed Denver Nuggets, many have said the Warriors have had the easier path to the finals. While there is no such thing as an easy route to an NBA championship, the Warriors will come into the series as the more rested team after ending the conference finals in five games. Stephen Curry won the inaugural Magic Johnson award as the WCF MVP.
Boston outlasted the Miami Heat in one of the oddest Eastern Conference Finals in league history. The seven-game series was close at the end, but the often injured teams traded blowouts for the first five games. Jayson Tatum fittingly won the Larry Bird award as the first ECF MVP. The Celtics’ run would be one for the record books should they end it with a title. Boston defeated the Brooklyn Nets led by Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving before dethroning reigning champ Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks. Ending this run with a Finals win over the NBA’s most recent dynasty would be epic, even for a franchise with 17 banners in their rafters.
The Warriors are known for their ‘Death Lineup’ which is guard-heavy. This is great for the fans since we love the flowing offense and deep threes and it’s great for Golden State because they are paper-thin in the frontcourt. Draymond Green anchors this defense regardless of the lineup. Offensively, the Celtics will all but beg him to shoot, so if he can add any offense to this series he could wind up an x-factor. However, the current lead for that title is Andrew Wiggins. The All-Star forward has shown flashes of greatness during this playoff run. If he is able to do that again for a game or two in this series, it could be the difference for the Warriors. Kevon Looney could be called upon again for more minutes in the finals if Boston’s bigs begin to dominate the paint.
Tatum leads the way for the Celtics up front. Boston will need to avoid force-feeding him the ball, but if they are to win it all he will need to continue his great play. Al Horford has turned back the clock during this postseason, making big plays in key moments including a dominant fourth quarter against the Bucks. Boston will need Horford to be a facilitator on the offensive end at times during this matchup. Golden State will work to keep the ball out of the hands of Boston’s playmakers. If Horford can knock down mid-range jumpers and hit the open man from the high post, it will keep the Warrior’s defense honest.
The health of Robert Williams is a key factor as well. If healthy, Williams will provide the Celtics with another rim protector. Grant Williams has been clutch for Boston off of the bench and could be an answer for the Warrior’s small-ball lineup on defense.
Advantage: Boston Celtics
How much introduction is really needed for this group? The triumphant return of the ‘Splash Brothers’ to the NBA Finals is a story well known to most basketball fans. Curry is in search of his fourth ring and coming off of an MVP performance in the last series. Klay Thompson hasn’t been the same scoring machine of days past, but he proved that ‘Game Six Klay’ had made a return as well and will undoubtedly be a factor in this series.
The newest ‘bro’ Jordan Poole provides instant offense when he is in the game. One of the most improved players in the league, when Poole joins Thompson and Curry on the court, Golden State can run anyone out of the gym in a hurry. The free-flowing offense this team runs does lead to a lot of turnovers, so they will have to be mindful of that going against a Boston defense that excels in creating them.
Boston has plenty of talent in the backcourt as well. Jaylen Brown can score it with the best of them and Marcus Smart is the Defensive Player of the Year. Brown will need to cut down on turnovers in a big way. He has had multiple games with over five giveaways this postseason. For a player that shares primary ballhandling duties with Smart and Tatum, this is far too many. Tatum too has a tendency to be loose with the ball. With Golden State’s ability to carve up defenses in transition, ball security could decide our next champion.
Boston’s acquisition of Derrick White before the trade deadline looks to be one of the biggest impact moves of the season. The reserve guard not only provides another solid defender to match up against the Warrior’s talented backcourt, but when his shot is falling he can hit threes in bunches.
Advantage: Golden State Warriors
Coaching and Intangibles
Steve Kerr is at the helm for the Warriors, where he has been successful since taking over for Mark Jackson. At his side is future Sacramento Kings head coach Mike Brown. This staff also includes former players Kenny Atkinson and Leandro Barbosa. This team has enough championship experience to coach itself, but the staff here cannot be overlooked. Kerr and company will have this team well prepared and ready to make adjustments on the fly.
Ime Udoka is no stranger to making adjustments. His team was 11th in the east when they changed their offensive approach to be less ball-dominant and stop teams from running zones against them. Udoka may lack the experience as a rookie head coach, but his playing days and time as an assistant coach have set him up well for this.
Advantage: Golden State Warriors
NBA Finals: Final Prediction
Above all else, I hope this is a close series. After the way the last round played out, this league and its fans deserve to end things on a high note. The matchup looks great on paper. Golden State has an incredible offensive attack, but Boston got here by playing great defense. The Celtics are touted as the league’s best defensive team, but the Warriors held that title for months prior to a lengthy injury to Green. In recent years, no one has beaten the Warriors at a rate better than Boston has, but that’s the regular season.
With two evenly matched teams, this series will likely come down to certain factors breaking one way or the other. Will Wiggins be in All-Star form? Will the Celtics survive their inevitable offensive droughts? Can the Warriors play their ‘Death Lineup’ with Horford or Williams in the game? The offensive consistency of Brown and Smart will be key to the Celtics’ potential success as well.
When it comes down to it, I think the Celtics are ready to be a Championship team. However, the talent and experience on the other side will be too much to overcome.
Warriors in six.